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Curating consciousness on global canvas of maritime environment

On World Environment Day 2021, it is timely to curate our collective thoughts not just on geopolitical foci but also on the vital call to a sustained, equitable and unhampered blue economy.

Dennard H D’Souza

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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.

CHERISHABLE MEMORIES 

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. 

EMERGING VOYAGE

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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Defence

Major push to Make in India in defence sector

Ajay Jandyal

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To give a major push to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Atamanirbhar Bharat mission, the Indian Army has joined hands with various technology firms to cater to the demands of the present security scenario.

The Army says if it has to remain operational all around, it cannot rely on obsolete technology hence latest advancement in the sector have to be adopted.

“The Northern Command is always combat ready in the times to come, the challenges will continue to increase so we have to rely on advance technology and keep on innovating,” Lieutenant General Upendra Dwivedi told The Daily Guardian on the sidelines of the Northern Technology Symposium held in Udhampur on Sunday.

North Tech Symposium was organized under the aegis of HQ Northern Command at Udhampur. Technology symposium, exhibition was organised wherein 162 companies from Indian defence industry including MSMEs, DRDO, DPSU, participated and exhibited their products.

In addition, 42 innovative solutions by Army establishments towards enhancement of combat potential of the Army were also on display. Lt Gen BS Raju, Vice Chief of Army Staff inaugurated the first of its kind technology symposium in Jammu and Kashmir.

Addressing the event, vice-chief of Army staff Lt Gen V S Raju said that he would have appreciated if the investors, capital ventures would have also shown interest in the event to boost the new start-up.

“To cope up with the ever-evolving and ever-changing security scenario, we also need to adopt changes and keep on innovating. I am happy that so many companies have shown interest to showcase their products at the North Tech Symposium. I am hopeful that in near future, many of the products would be put in use by the armed forces,” General Raju said.

In the wake of recent incidence of drone dropping in Jammu and Kashmir and Punjab from across the Indo-Pak border, various companies have displayed their products including anti- drone system, drone jammer which can strengthen the forces and border guarding forces to thwart Pakistan’s plan of disturbing peace.

Other than drone dropping threats, detection of tunnels on Jammu and Kashmir border is also a major threat for the security forces these days as 11 tunnels have been detected on Indian-Pakistan border in the past few years. There was number of companies which showcased their products to detect underground tunnels by using artificial intelligence and special radar.

The symposium saw active participation from of senior officers from different forces including IDS, Army HQ, HQ ARTRAC, other Commands, HQ Northern Command, and its subordinate formations. This interactive platform for knowledge diffusion through Joint Army-Industry participation was an important step in the direction of the government’s initiative of “Make in India”.

On the first day of the seminar, the participants from Army and industry discussed the policy and procedures for expeditious procurement, Raksha Atmanirbharta initiatives by Indian Army, DRDO and Defence Public Sector Undertakings, how can private sector contribute towards surveillance system, weapon sights, drones and counter drone system and miscellaneous technologies like 3D printing.

The symposium served to showcase cutting edge technologies and innovative products providing solutions to some of the complex challenges faced by the security forces in Northern Command and also acted as an ideal platform for mutual exchange of ideas between the domestic defence industry and the Army. The technologies and products on display covered a wide canvas, the prominent ones being surveillance and situational awareness, tactical mobility, firepower, force protection, communications, combat medical facility, robotics and simulators.

The symposium was a huge success and Lt Gen Upendra Dwivedi, AVSM lauded the initiative and innovations of all the vendors. The General Officer expressed his conviction that the plethora of technologies available indigenously can further boost the “Atmanirbhar Bharat” project of the nation. The spirit of Atmanirbharta demands that research and development, the domestic defence industry and Army have work in a synchronized manner to realise the nation’s vision.

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ARMY MAJOR SUCCUMBS TO INJURIES DURING OPERATION IN KASHMIR

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An Indian Army Major lost his life after slipping into a ravine during a counter-infiltration operation in the Uri sector of Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday.

Major Raghunath Ahlawat.

Late Major Raghunath Ahlawat, 34 was leading his team on a counter-infiltration operation based on reliable intelligence input. “To identify a safe approach for the team he led from the front while carrying out reconnaissance on a route through a steep cliff. “Unfortunately, he slipped due to bad weather and slippery conditions and fell 60 meters into a ravine. Critically injured, he succumbed to his injuries enroute while being evacuated to the nearest Army Hospital,” Indian Army officials said in a statement.

The Army paid tribute to the officer in a ceremony held in the Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar led by Chinar Corps Commander Lieutenant General DP Pandey.

Major Ahlawat was commissioned into the Army in 2012 and hails from Dwarka, New Delhi and is survived by his wife and his parents.

The mortal remains of Late Maj Raghunath Ahlawat were taken for last rites to his native place, where he would be laid to rest with full military honours.

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Defence

FOR 114 FIGHTER JETS, IAF FAVOURS ‘BUY GLOBAL MAKE IN INDIA’ ROUTE

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For over USD 20 billion tender for manufacturing 114 multi-role fighter aircraft (MRFA) the Indian Air Force (IAF) would prefer to take the ‘Buy Global Make in India’ route over the strategic partnership policy model to produce the planes within the country.

‘Buy Global Make in India’ is a category of procurement process provided in the Defence Acquisition Procedure 2020 under Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to smoothen the acquisition of foreign weapon systems and their production within the country under the ‘Make in India’ in the defence programme. Along with the indigenous LCA Tejas and the 5th Generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft project, the 114 MRFA project would also be required by the IAF to maintain an edge over both the Northern and Western adversaries. We would prefer to go in for the Buy Global Make in India route which is preferred by the vendors also who are expected to take part in the programme, government sources said. Three American aircraft including the F-18, F-15 and F-21 (modified version of the F-16), Russian Mig-35 and Su-35 along with the French Rafale, Swedish Saab Gripen and the Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft are expected to participate in the programme. The Indian Air Force had also sought the views of these companies on the acquisition procedure that they would like to opt for in the programme and most of them have shown a preference for the Buy Global Make in India route only, they said.

The sources said that the force has also sought directions from the government on the project.

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INDIA GETS DEFENCE SUPPLIES FROM RUSSIA, BUT PAYMENT MAY BECOME AN ISSUE

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Amid the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine, defence supplies from Moscow are continuing as the Indian defence forces have received a shipment of overhauled aircraft engines and spares. However, there is concern about whether this would continue in the near future as a solution for making payment to Russia has not yet been found.

“The defence forces have received shipments from the Russians very recently and it is still on. So far, there has not been any glitch in supplies for our forces,” a government source told ANI.

“However, there are concerns on whether these supplies can continue in the same manner as the Indian side cannot make payments to these Russian firms in view of the sanctions related to their banks,” he added.

The sources said the Indian and Russian sides are working to find a way this issue can be overcome and many options are being explored.

The latest supplies from Russia included overhauled fighter aircraft engines and spares for an aircraft fleet and they arrived through the sea route, the sources said.

India also received the final parts of the S-400 Triumf air defence system from Russia whose first squadron is operational with its elements deployed to take care of threats from both Pakistan and China.

India is one of the largest users of Russian weaponry including major platforms like fighter jets, transport aircraft, helicopters, warships, tanks, infantry combat vehicles and submarines.

Over the last couple of decades, it has broadened its source base by including equipment from countries like the US, France and Israel in a big way but the dependence on Russia still remains very high.

The Air Force is dependent majorly on the Russian supplies as its mainstay Su30 aircraft fleet is Russian along with its Mi-17 helicopter fleet.

The Army is also dependent on the Russian-origin T-90 and T-72 tank fleet for the armoured regiments.

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IAF, ARMY BRASS WILL ASSESS LAC SITUATION

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The top brass of the Indian Army and Air Force would be assessing the preparedness of their forces and infrastructure requirements along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) as the militaries of both India and China continue to remain in a standoff position in eastern Ladakh.

The Indian Air Force brass would be meeting this week from 6 April to discuss the security situation including air operations along the northern borders. The Indian Army commanders led by Army Chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane would be assessing the present deployments along eastern Ladakh and the northeastern sectors from 18 April onwards in the bi-annual commanders’ conference.

The top brass of the Indian Army had jointly discussed the infrastructure requirements and developments required by the Indian side from Ladakh to Arunachal Pradesh during a conference in Lucknow recently.

India has made several changes in its deployments post aggression shown by Chinese troops in April-May 2020.

India and China have been talking to each other at both military and diplomatic levels to address the issues but so far they have not been able to do so mainly because of Chinese reluctance. In recent talks to address the Patrolling Point 15 friction, they proposed a solution that was not acceptable to the Indian side.

Indian security establishment led by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval has been of the view that the issue would be resolved only if the Chinese completely disengaged and went back to pre April 2020 positions.The Indian side has strengthened its deployments manifold all along the LAC. The Indian Air Force has also started building advanced bases in the forward areas including infrastructure to operate fighter jets and attack helicopters from the forward fields such as Nyoma.

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Sharp fall in infiltration of foreign terrorists, stone pelting: CRPF DG

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There has been a sharp decline in the infiltration of foreign terrorists as well as in stone-pelting incidents in Jammu and Kashmir since the abrogation of Article 370 from the erstwhile state, Director General of Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) Kuldiep Singh said on Thursday.

However, noting the targeted killings in Jammu and Kashmir, the officer said, “Some time there is a spurt in terrorist incidents” and the recent killing in “periodic series” are among those, and “it occurs”. Replying to queries during a press briefing here at the CRPF Headquarters, Singh said, “CRPF immediately try to control terrorist incidents in Jammu and Kashmir soon after it gets inputs. These incidents are not totally controlled by internal terrorist people who are there. On many occasions, it is controlled by those sitting across the border and it is directed whom to be targeted or not.”

The CRPF DG reiterated that “some directions comes from foreign lands too”, and thus, “terrorist incidents some times increase and sometimes decrease” “It does not mean that things are out of hand…You can see that the incidents of stone-pelting are almost nil. There has been a sharp decline in the number of infiltration of foreign terrorists into Jammu and Kashmir. Sometimes, there is a spurt in terrorist incidents but it happens,” he said.

The officer informed that the CRPF has neutralized 175 terrorists in Jammu and Kashmir and apprehended 183 from March 1, 2021, to March 16, 2022.

Meanwhile, the CRPF has recovered 253 arms from Jammu and Kashmir and seized 7,541 ammunition as well as 96.38 kg explosives, 23 Improvised Explosive Device (IED), 232 grenades, and 36 detonators from the Union Territory, Singh said. Further, he informed that as many as 91 encounters have taken place from March 1, 2021, to March 16 this year. CRPF is the premier Central Armed Police Force (CRPF) entrusted with the responsibility of safeguarding the internal security of the country. It is deployed across the length and breadth of the country, assisting various state police in the discharge of their duties. CRPF is providing security cover to 117 protectees of various categories, he said adding that 32 women personnel have been inducted into the VIP Security Wing.

A total of 41 VIPs were provided security cover by the CRPF during recently concluded Assembly elections in five states, the DG said adding that the security of 27 protectees has been withdrawn post-elections. The CRPF chief also said that under financial assistance from the risk fund, ex-gratia for personnel martyred in action has been increased to Rs 30 lakhs from Rs 20 lakhs, and for all other cases, the ex-gratia has been increased to Rs 20 lakhs from Rs 15 lakhs.

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