The oceans are at the centre of much global attention, while on the cusp of a tectonic shift in geo-economic balances, which are slowly tilting in favour of the eastern hemisphere. In the growing significance of the narrative of Indo-Pacific, the focus is inherently maritime. Unlike some others, India has re-emerged from long self-induced sea blindness to leading the existing world order and displaces economic hegemony of a few on the sea lanes. On World Environment Day 2021, it is timely to curate our collective thoughts not just on geopolitical foci but on the vital call to a sustained, equitable, and unhampered blue economy.
Manthan: A Maritime Workshop by IMU & MHS.Team Manthan of MHS at NDA.
INDIA AWAKENS TO A NEW MARITIME PERSPECTIVE
The Oceans are 71% of the planet’s surface and the maritime environment forms 95% of our biosphere. The seascape forms a strategically important zone as also the nerve centre of intensive geo-economic activity. Maritime trade concentrated in the Indo-Pacific region constitutes nearly 40% of global trade and 62% of the world’s GDP. Nearly 90% of the maritime trade happens through the blue waters of the world. The nation of the global south has a great potential for enhancing its blue economy by tapping into the unexplored resources of the ocean in a regulated and environmentally sensitive fashion. Blue economy driven policy has the potential to alleviate many families from destitution and abject poverty. Potential areas to enhance the blue economy include fishery, shipping, tourism etc. From this fine assortment of human pursuits Shipping has been historically at the forefront of a booming economy.
In this article, we, of the Maritime History Society research team called “Manthan”, seek to flag the significance of the oceans to the world of contemporary attention at large and focus amongst the Academia. In the past few months, Maritime History Society and its young cohort of researchers conducted two very significant Workshops. The first workshop was a single day lecture series at the National Defence Academy held on the 5 March at the NDA premises Khadakwasla and the second was a two-day online lecture series in collaboration with Indian Maritime University Visakhapatnam dated 21 and 22 April. The research team consisted of Amruta Talawadekar, Aishwarya Devasthali, Dennard H D’Souza, Janhavi Lokegaonkar and was headed by Director Maritime History Society Cmde Odakkal Johnson. The topics covered at this forum were Tangible and Intangible Maritime Heritage, Maritime development through the ages and Maritime Hero, who were stalwarts of the maritime realm.
THE DUAL SPECTRUM OF MARITIME HERITAGE: TANGIBLE AND INTANGIBLE
The Maritime History Society researchers Aishwarya and Amruta presented their lecture on Tangible and Intangible Maritime heritage. The mainstay of this lecture was shipbuilding at Mandvi, Gujarat, a case study on Intangible Maritime heritage and Coastal forts of Maharashtra as a classic specimen of Tangible Maritime Heritage.
Heritage is both tangible and intangible. It is a combination of inheritance of physical property and intangible qualities that are retained by previous generations and should be bestowed upon future generations. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) convention described intangible cultural heritage as a legacy of the physical property and intangible attributes of a group or society that are inherited from the past generation, maintained by the future and bestowed for the benefit of the future generation.
Maritime heritage and culture is an integral part of the Indian socio-cultural tapestry. Traditional craftsmanship is perhaps the most tangible manifestation of intangible cultural heritage. Ships have often been the catalysts for establishing trade links, following which cultural exchange and human migration became commonplace.
From reed boats to massive vessels, shipbuilding in India has seen its highs and lows with aggressive growth and sharp decline through time. The craft of shipbuilding has historically been rich in terms of its knowledge and practices. The inhabitants across civilisations and ruling periods have understood and adopted various sea tactics and designed and redesigned the vessels and their amenities based on their experiences. This form of intangible cultural heritage is under threat, endangered by globalisation and cultural homogenisation. Today even though this craft lies in an inconspicuous corner of few towns in the country, the rich value of this craft has been an integral part of the past and needs to be conserved for the future.
TRADE, SHIP-BUILDING AND URBANISATION: A CASCADE OF MARITIME DEVELOPMENTS
The Tangible and Intangible Maritime Heritage was soon followed by an interactive lecture on Maritime developments through the ages. This lecture was presented by Dennard H D’Souza and Janhavi Lokegaonkar Researchers Maritime History Society. This lecture recounted the developments on the western sea coast starting with the geographical phenomenon called the Monsoon while gradually narrowing down on the City of Mumbai, which is the epitome of this maritime development.
The monsoons created an Ideal ecosystem for the evolution of Shipbuilding and the eventual Urbanisation of the coastal fronts, which is very well encapsulated in the rise of the city of Bombay, now Mumbai
Seafarers have used the monsoon winds to sail across the ocean since ancient times. In the Indian Subcontinent, the Harappans were the earliest in recorded history to have sailed using wind. The Harappans established mercantile relationships with Mesopotamia and the Arab Peninsula, especially the ancient settlement of Magan and Dilmun. Some early Indians have also been noted to establish an expat township in these alien lands. For Example, some Harappans built a large enclave in southern Sumerian called Guabba. This township was a Harappan Transregional settlement which was probably a mercantile township of some sort. Its inhabitants were closely associated with the God Ningirsu, for whose temple they maintained a steady supply of grains from their granary.
Then we come to the early centuries of the Common Era. This is the period when the Indo-Roman trade was at its peak, and the centre of this activity was the Indian Ocean Region. The Roman were very fond of the black peppercorn which they used for flavouring their sauce and meats. Romans also used it to make medications for ailments and diseases. Many of these medical recipes required the infusion of pepper. Thus the pepper was a priced commodity and was worth its price in gold. The author of the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea, which is a sailor’s digest, maintains that the economic imbalance caused by the pepper trade drained the Roman economy of its gold.
The Romans did not reach India on the back of their knowledge and innovation. Rather they were helped by an Indian to find the sea route to India which was here before a guarded secret known only to the Arabs and the Indians. We know from a Greek navigator Eudoxus of Cyzicus account that it was an Indian who leaked the secret maritime route of the northern Indian Ocean region.
At the same time when the Romans were trading with the western seaboard of India, the Eastern coast was also an active maritime zone in the early history of the Indian Subcontinent. We see a lot of roman coins and amphorae as far as the coast of Bengal. There were port towns on the eastern seaboard like those of Tamralipti, Palur and Kaveri Poompattinam which in many ways were an active trading hub. These port towns connected the markets of the hinterlands to the transoceanic maritime centres. Emperor Ashoka sent his daughter Theri Sangamitra to Tamraparni (Sri Lanka) from Tamralipti. Most importantly the Kalingans were navigating the water of the Eastern front.
It was a long-held belief among the British that the English Oak was the best wood to build ships. This long-held belief was shattered when the Brits encountered the Malabar teak. The British on entering India they first established themselves at Surat. Here they managed to build a dock and commissioned English Ships on Indian soil. We are also told that while the English oak reserves in Britain were running dry the Warships that were commissioned in India and made of Indian teak saved England from the threats of Napoleon. This was the period when Europe was under the turmoil of the Napoleonic wars.
Although Surat had been a major commercial port and centre of trade during the medieval period, due to an increase in the silting of the port, the British who had established themselves at Surat were now planning to shift their headquarters to a new location. The British found a favourable spot close to their headquarters in Surat which lay on the maritime trade route. This spot was the marshy archipelago of Bombay. A collection of seven islands, Bombay was an Ideal location for the constantly silting Surat basin. The Geomorphology of Bombay was as such that although open to the sea the Islands provided an enclosure from the tumultuous sea. Also, the constant problem of siltation which was characteristic of Surat was very unlikely on a site like Bombay which was situated on the open seas. With this potential to harbour Ships, the British shifted their commercial capital to Bombay as it has characteristics of a good natural harbour.
The foundation of a modern metropolis on the west coast of India was laid by Gerald Aungier, a good four centuries ago. In his short tenure spanning from 1669 to 1677, he managed to transform a sleepy fishing hamlet into a bustling port town throbbing with activity.
The dry-docking facilities in Mumbai that were made during the colonial era helped flourish the Indian shipbuilding industry. Most of the trade and economy that happened then and what happens today is due to the flourishing shipping industry. It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Bombay is a by-product of the maritime economy.
The team was given a grand tour at the overwhelmingly large campus of the National Defence Academy (NDA) on the day after the one-day symposium. The NDA campus is placed in a verdant environment where the wilderness was in total harmony with Human civilisation. The experience at the NDA campus was exhilarating; the calibrated cycling of the young cadets was commendable; they almost all steered their bikes at the precise angle, with paddle geared to clockwork precision.
The NDA campus is endowed with many water bodies, the largest of which is the Khadakwasla Lake. The team was given a sumptuous boat ride upon the lake. It almost felt as if it was a slice of sea encrusted within the lofty Pune Mountains. Following the boat ride, the team drove to the equestrian unit, where we were stunned to see the noblest of steeds being treated like royalty. The NDA has some fine horses each having a streak of idiosyncrasy. Overall the NDA looked like a world unto itself. Everything was placed in an Apple pie order, something very novel to the civilian eye.
The two-day lecture series with the Indian Maritime University (IMU) Vishakhapatnam was conducted in the wake of the second wave of the Covid pandemic. It was a memorable event that got the MHS closer to the world of Academia, especially that field of academia that is dedicated to the service of the oceans. The IMU is an institute of excellence in the field of maritime studies in India. It has the privilege of owning six sprawling campuses throughout the length and breadth of India.
The seminars conducted by the MHS took the message of the ocean to the Cradle of Leadership — NDA and the home of future mariners — IMU. We feel delighted to highlight the unsung maritime history of this great nation on every forum.
It is very noteworthy that the oceanic space is fast emerging as the arena of attention among scholars, state leaders and select strategists. While the pandemic has reined in obvious travel and connectivity, the digital space has enabled an intellectual transcending of territorial confines. In principle that is the core of the maritime medium — the Global Commons. Restrictions on human activity including the tragic economic slowdown have had an alternative positivity. Many have acknowledged that cities breathe easier, pollution levels have declined and even the sea coasts and beaches are cleaner! Is there a subtle message that nature is trying to convey?
In a logical voyage of Indian maritime heritage and nautical practices that have been at the focus of academic enquiry at MHS, there is an awakening to sustainable ocean economic activity. Maritime-related production is an integral part of the Indian economy. While it is crucial for the Indian economy that this sector is promoted further in future, the Indian government has effectively recognised the importance of preserving oceans’ sensitive ecosystems and contributing as well as committing to sustainable use of maritime resources. This is why India is envisaging its way to become one of the largest contributors to the “Blue Growth “ as a part of the long term strategy to support sustainable growth in the marine and maritime sectors as a whole.
In March 2015 Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, “To me, the Blue chakra or wheel in India’s national flag represents the potential of the Blue Revolution or the Ocean Economy. That is how central the ocean economy is to us.” He endorsed Blue Economy as a new pillar of economic activity in the coastal areas and linked hinterlands through sustainable tapping of oceanic resources and a year later announced his vision for the seas through “Security And Growth for All in the Region” (SAGAR). On World Environment Day 2021, it is time to actually see a “Neel Kranti” or Blue Revolution in our collective mindset. Do reach out and stay engaged with the work of Maritime History Society on our website www.mhsindia.org and our various media handles. Let heritage awaken our maritime consciousness.
The author is a Research Associate at Maritime History Society and part of Team Manthan – A Group of Young Maritime Scholars.
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MOD SIGNS CONTRACT WITH GSL FOR CONSTRUCTION OF 2 PCV FOR INDIAN COAST GUARD
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.
IAF, NAVY CONDUCT PASSAGE EXERCISE WITH US NAVY CARRIER STRIKE GROUP
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.
DEFENCE SECRETARY CALLS FOR ACTIVE COLLABORATIONS TO FIGHT COVID-19 AT 9TH MOSCOW CONFERENCE
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.
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.
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.
ANDAMAN & NICOBAR COMMAND CELEBRATES WORLD HYDROGRAPHY DAY
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.
INS SHIVAJI ORGANISES VARIOUS ACTIVITIES TO MARK YOGA DAY
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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