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CORPORATISATION OF OFB: HIGH TIME FOR REAL ACTION

The Ordnance Factory Board is a national strategic asset with eroded roots. It needs a rebuild. If the rebuilding is done effectively, India will benefit immensely.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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The OFB is similar to the Boeing 737 Max aircraft which was flying with the wrong software and ultimately crashed… — Anonymous

The recent ‘barrel burst’ of the 155 mm ATAGS gun during trials sets the entire development process back by a couple of years. This is not a first-time occurrence. It happened earlier during the development of Dhanush and trials of other guns. In most cases the cause was defective OFB ammunition. In all such cases, procurement processes were set back by two to five years. We did not have the fighting capability for that period. We acquired that capability later at a higher cost. We lost out operationally and financially. Such accidents earn us a very poor international reputation. One foreign vendor even refused to do any trials with OFB ammunition unless each round was X-Rayed. The OFB is now internationally synonymous with poor quality. If  70 lethal accidents per year occur with OFB ammunition such a reputation is natural. This underscores the point that it is high time for corporatisation of the OFB. 

The government has repeatedly stated that it wants to increase defence exports.  One of the main items of defence export is ammunition. However the poor quality of OFB ammunition and its reputation precludes export. As a result, no one will be prepared to buy other associated main equipment also. The general opinion in international circles is that dealing with OFB is like burning your fingers. In case the ‘Quality’ situation and reputation are not salvaged through verifiable reform– bye bye Exports! Our PM and RM should not have a doubt about it. 

 Let us look inwards. Some time back, there were a lot of accidents in Artillery. Faulty  ammunition was suspected. Sure enough, preliminary investigations revealed that some of the mechanical fuses produced by the OFB, were fully armed even when the setting was at ‘safe’. DGQA which is also under the DDP passed these fuses. Hence when guns were fired with defective ammunition, the barrel would burst immediately. It was like Russian roulette since we did not know which fuse was defective out of the lakhs of fuses which were held. It was just lackadaisical assembly and production of fuses amounting to criminal negligence.  In all there were about eight hundred of such defective fuses. If the problem was not rooted out through an elaborate process despite OFB objection and obfuscation, we would have potentially lost eight hundred guns. That is about 1/3rd of our Artillery. In addition to loss of life and limb of trained manpower there would be compensation involved. For the entire period of that investigation and rectification, which lasted years, a complete lot of that ammunition was kept aside and not available for operational purposes. Hence our operational capability went down. During the course of that investigation some of the shells had to be destroyed due to expiry of shelf life. Some ammunition had to be destroyed prematurely. To replace destroyed ammunition we had to put in new orders prematurely, at a greater cost due to inflation. Hence the total costs involved were cost of destroyed equipment in accidents, cost of replacement equipment,  cost of injury to manpower,  cost of training new manpower,  cost of destruction of ammunition and of new ammunition. To all this one can add the administrative costs of prolonged inquiries and investigations. Loss of operational capability is beyond cost. It affects national security. The overall multiplicative loss could be up to five to ten times.  Such cases are not limited to one kind of ammunition. It extends to all kinds of OFB ammunition – Air Defence, Artillery and Tank ammunition without prejudice. To that extent, the OFB has been spreading misery to all Arms impartially. If an Army has to stop firing of weapons due to defective ammunition then the situation is beyond alarm.  No nation can afford such neglect and profligacy. Just on this score, the OFB system needs major reform. The issue of ammunition accidents is a matter of record, often reported  and can be verified. I would also like to add that we have not had so many losses due to enemy action as we have had due to negligence and poor quality of the OFB. That is also a matter of record. A tongue in cheek remark once made to me by a junior officer was – if there is OFB around, who needs an enemy? 

 Take another example. Three 155 mm Guns were approved for induction into the Army almost simultaneously. The M777 ULH, The K9 Vajra and Dhanush. The first two are completing their delivery on schedule and are vying for repeat orders. They are being deployed or being contemplated for deployment in Eastern Ladakh. Serial production of Dhanush, a self-acclaimed  flagship program of OFB, has not even commenced. In fact, at some point of time, OFB, had given up in favour of an imported system. Corruption or lack of pride or both?  This is despite the fact that orders were assured and all support was given for the project to succeed. Deficiencies were accommodated /overlooked so that an indigenous system fructifies. However the OFB has remained OFB — UNRELIABLE. They have belied that nations trust in them. If the government is even remotely serious about Atma Nirbharta, a Dhanush Integration Centre should be put in place separately for production of the Dhanush 155 mm on a fast track basis. The structure should be out of the ambit of the current OFB and can be brought back after Corporatisation. I had recommended such a mechanism five years back when I was in service. In fact, late Mr Manohar Parrikar had even approved the concept and was keen on it. It will be there somewhere gathering dust in the MOD files. What is the use of OFB when it cannot produce a gun based on a 35 year old TOT, to defend the nation in a crisis? Equally, the MOD cannot just put out an import ban on 155 mm guns and sit back and wait for a proven failure like OFB to deliver goods. That is a dream in a dream. 

 Such a state of affairs represents a deep systematic malaise. It is not fixing one single problem. It needs a major systematic correction in ethos, leadership,  professionalism, accountability and integrity.  These issues need to be pump primed.  Despite many earlier efforts at internal reforms nothing much has changed.  The feedback I received on my earlier articles indicated that both the workers and the management are living in a self-denial bubble. At times the feedback was quite vicious and personal. The present OFB system is past its shelf life. Continuing with it is reinforcing failure. I also see a number of articles by distinguished senior veterans who are also of the opinion that the OFB is now a relic of the past and goes against every vestige of Atma Nirbharta. The accident with the ATAGs gun just proves the point. The MOD should start the corporatisation process post-haste so that the nation is not fooled anymore.  Every officer and official whether in or out of government feels unanimously that the reforms initiated by the government are minimalistic in nature. Many feel that OFB should be broken up into verticals and privatised. To that extent, the current Government is being soft on the OFB. However, it is good that the government has appointed KPMG as a consultant to prepare the road map for the intended corporatisation. I seriously hope it succeeds and the process is taken to its logical conclusion.

  Judging from the reactions of trade unions, they will impede the work of the consultant. Also the officers of the IOFS cadre will not cooperate with the consultant. Both these groups feel threatened by corporatisation. It is a piquant situation where the management and workers are on the same page to thwart reform. The government must think through this carefully. If needed certain ordinances can be passed to press home the case. Also, it is fully possible that the recommendations of the consultant are frozen like all the other committee reports before this. Internal subversion of such nature and political cold feet is also fully on the cards. 

I would like to reiterate issues from my previous article.  OFB is a huge strategic asset. It has tremendous strengths. Our workers are experienced. Its transformation will take time. It should be done deliberately, in phases, with care. Reform should be as per our conditions, culture and practices which have strengths. There is considerable pre-corporatisation groundwork required.  Certain structural changes can be carried out even before the consultant comes into the scene through an Implementation Committee. The Board can be given financial powers equivalent to other DPSUs. The OFB can start functioning under clearly visible and foreseen verticals. The Financial advisory and audit system and the QA system can commence change. People who wrote previous reports on reforming OFB are still in circulation. They should be brought into the scene to assist KPMG. All stakeholders must be part of the reform. Reluctance of workers seems to be the fear of the unknown. A major problem of the OFB is the disconnect and insensitivity to users. A greater connect between the Services and the OFB must commence. 

While corporatisation of OFB is mandatory, there is a strong case for the DDP (MOD) to be also reformed simultaneously. Unless the MOD is also reformed, the OFB will not get the right message. The present structure of the DAC, where the Secretary DDP is also its member is tantamount to insider trading. A couple of Defence Secretaries who were also Secretaries DDP also conceded that there was a conflict of interest in the current arrangement. That is an open secret. Hence a few fundamental steps are needed. Firstly, the DDP should be a bespoke organisation away from the MOD. The UK follows such a system. I had written about it three years back.  In UK, the Defence Equipment and Supply Organisation(equivalent of DDP) has been converted into a ‘bespoke trading entity’. Its  ‘unique freedoms’  allows it to operate in a more business-like manner to address root causes of cost and schedule overruns which emanate from an overheated equipment budget, an unhealthy relationship between the requestor and the deliverer, insufficient skills and management freedoms. It is now operating as an Arm’s Length Body from the rest of the UK MoD. Secondly the DGQA should be placed under the DMA. For reasons beyond sanity the Government continues with the DGQA under the Secretary DDP. It only enlarges the scope of insider trading and match fixing. OFB being given orders on nomination basis should reduce progressively whether it is corporatised or not. In fact it should be made to compete on an open tender basis with the market on certain items. TOT to OFB should be banned. The MOD (finance) and the Financial Advisory system needs a drastic review. They have simply not been able to control the rampant overpricing mechanisms of the OFB. In fact they might have contributed to it through connivance. The mere reform of the OFB alone won’t do. We should go the whole hog if we are serious. 

The OFB is a national strategic asset with eroded roots. It needs a rebuild. If the rebuilding is done effectively, India will benefit immensely. However any rebuilding is possible only if the MOD is also suitably reformed concomitantly. Most importantly we must put a timeline if we are serious about the affair.

 Lastly, I put out the question of ‘Corporatisation of OFB’ in the social media. The answers were reassuring. My query and some answers are there for everyone to see. First, there was only one negative reply. Everyone else wanted corporatisation. Second, there were serious and knowledgeable views from the common people. Third, the respondents were from a wide cross section and were not all experts or armed forces officers. Fourth, it is high time for Corporatisation of OFB. It should be pressed home. 

 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. His other articles can be read on his blog www. gunnersshot.com.

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Defence

MOD SIGNS CONTRACT WITH GSL FOR CONSTRUCTION OF 2 PCV FOR INDIAN COAST GUARD

Ashish Singh

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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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IAF, NAVY CONDUCT PASSAGE EXERCISE WITH US NAVY CARRIER STRIKE GROUP

Ashish Singh

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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.

IAF AND USN IN THE INDIAN OCEAN REGION

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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Defence

DEFENCE SECRETARY CALLS FOR ACTIVE COLLABORATIONS TO FIGHT COVID-19 AT 9TH MOSCOW CONFERENCE

Ashish Singh

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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 VS CHINA: UNRAVELLING AN INTERESTING BATTLE

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.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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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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Defence

ANDAMAN & NICOBAR COMMAND CELEBRATES WORLD HYDROGRAPHY DAY

Ashish Singh

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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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Defence

INS SHIVAJI ORGANISES VARIOUS ACTIVITIES TO MARK YOGA DAY

Ashish Singh

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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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