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Dragon’s strategic myopia

China has opened too many geopolitical fronts—military aggression, Hong Kong, coronavirus, etc. Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Ladakh conveyed unprecedented strategic resolve. The message to China: India will not back down. The message to the world: China can be stood up to.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The Sino-Indian military pause is part of a geostrategic continuum. Some experts opine that India is cornered. They are as myopic as the PRC planners. Bottom line: It has been China’s choice to come in uninvited. It is India’s choice to let it go back.

As per Yun Sun, a Chinese scholar in Stimson Centre, “If a strategic friendship with India is untenable, it frees up room for tactical gains.” It explains the Chinese aggression. It is a politicallymotivated, expansionist tactical land grab, adopting a strategy of “Belligerent War Avoidance”. It needs a matching political response. Surprisingly, some feel that if we cannot evict the Chinese militarily from Finger 4 and restore status quo ante, we have lost it. The issues are larger. We will just see who is in a corner.

Two-Front Situation

India has thwarted China twice. Unchecked incursion at Naku La and Galwan could have resulted in our troops in the Giagong Plateau or the DSDBO road being cut off, respectively. If any of these attempts were successful it would have been a disaster. If the ambush at Galwan had been successful and had the Chinese suffered less casualties, China would have declared victory all the way back to the Middle Kingdom and would have painted the town red of having taught India a lesson. Finito. Full credit to our boys for giving China a bloody nose. China has been able to come up to Finger 4 in the Pangong Tso area and firm in due to a relatively better approach to the Fingers Area. The core issue is how to get China to restore the status quo ante. For that talks are on at appropriate levels and some disengagement has commenced. Besides this, both armies have mobilised and are battle ready. Notwithstanding, after their Galwan debacle, big talk and threats have disappeared from that comic strip called Global Times. Enhanced posturing has gravitated forces towards the Chinese rear door. If India fixes considerable Chinese resources here, they will not be available elsewhere. In the South China Sea, China is carrying out a major naval exercise which portends an island grab. The US is also carrying out an exercise in the area with two carrier strike forces to foreclose that option. Mutatis mutandis poses a direct threat to Chinese mainland also. Additionally, the US has redeployed forces from Europe into this area. The PLA’s force gravitation would have taken place towards the East Coast also. If anything goes wrong. The PLA could be short on ground forces. As per Yun Sun, “China has always been careful to avoid a two-front confrontation with America in the east and India in the west.” Not this time. Careless or myopic? Overall PLA is stretched in a tinder box situation. If a shooting match starts at either end, China is in a bigger pickle.

Geostrategic Issues

Geopolitical Isolation: China has opened too many geopolitical fronts — military aggression, Hong Kong, virus, etc. Our Prime Minister’s visit to Ladakh conveyed unprecedented strategic resolve. The message to China: India will not back down. The message to the world: China can be stood up to. In Ladakh, the Indian armed forces hold a clear edge for multiple reasons. China will get a rude shock if it attempts to force the issue. India is not in a state of adverse asymmetry with China. Read the Harvard Belfer Centre report. The current India-US posturing emboldens smaller nations to face China squarely. The UK is upset over the Hong Kong security law and seeks more hands to handle China. Taiwan has been actively cocking a snook at China. Australia has increased its defence budget by 40% for the next 10 years. France has pledged steadfast support to India. Germany and the US have blocked Chinese antiIndia moves at UNSC. A dissipating five eyes Intelligence is back together. The Quad is taking better shape. Vietnam and the Philippines are protesting Chinese activity in the South China Sea. Balance of ASEAN, Japan and South Korea are also pushing back. Even Cambodia, one of China’s major beneficiaries, is not toeing the line. Lo and behold! Its iron brother seems to be rusting. A recent view in Dawn is curious. “It would be naive to think that Islamabad and Beijing are not exchanging notes on what’s unfolding in Eastern Ladakh. Yet, it would be equally simplistic to think that there is about to be a pincer movement by the two against India. China has its own reasons for doing what it has embarked upon, and that policy does not include any free lunches or simplistic scenarios”. China is isolated and the world is uniting against its bullying as per New York Post. I agree with it.

Digital Strike: The fallout of India banning 59 Chinese apps citing security and sovereignty issues is going to be widespread. It circumvents WTO and GATT regulations. China talks of legally protecting its interests. Whom will it appeal to? International Court of Justice? Ah ha! Laughable. In addition, Huawei and ZTE will be eventually squeezed out from India, US, and UK. Chinese military aggression legally empowers other countries to follow India’s lead. Tik Tok alone represents a $6 billion loss. That will widen irreversibly. Chinese firms are being excluded from contracts in Telecom and Infrastructure sectors in India. Many Chinese firms are being delisted from US stock markets. Market reputations count and valuations will be hit severely. Incidentally, the balance of trade used to be around $60bn in China’s favour. I read a report that it is down to $44 billion. If India picks up the slack on offer in the digital world China’s pole position is under threat. It is an Indian opportunity to exploit. It also opens a case to firewall China out of the digital world on a reciprocal basis. The cost of the land grab in Pangong Tso will keep increasing as time goes by. The digital isolation is severe and is beyond normal understanding.

 Economic Slide: Examine any Chinese economic index. It is going southwards. Imports are down. Exports are down. Consumption is weak. BRI is in deep trouble. Military expenditure on two fronts will spike. Jobs are scarce. If bloggers and gamers are considered as ‘employed’ in China, the situation is bad. The digital strike has wider economic ramifications. The Virus is dampening the economy and will not allow revival beyond a point. The theory that “while we are weak, others are weaker” will hold up to a point. As the current situation and the virus persist, decoupling will move faster. There is an opinion that disengaging from the noxious elements of the Chinese economy isn’t a divorce, it’s a de-worming. The law of diminishing returns will set in soon. The famed and flaunted comprehensive national power of China is eroding. An aging China will hasten the erosion.

Lebensraum & Nazism: Communist China, first usurped East Turkestan, Tibet, and Aksai Chin militarily and made a deal illegally with Pakistan for the Shaksgam Valley. Later they coerced Central Asian Republics into parting with territory when settling borders. Now they are again looking at Indian territory from a convoluted perspective. It is a precursor to slicing territory off Nepal, Bhutan, and Russia. The claim on Vladivostok has clearly rattled Russian neutrality. China claims sovereignty over the entire South China Sea and disputes with all maritime neighbours. Debt trap diplomacy supports expansionism through BRI and CPEC. Hambantota in the pocket, Pakistan is the next target. Hitler’s lebensraum pales in comparison. Examine the sociological pairings. Middle kingdom and Aryan supremacy. Century of Humiliation and Versailles Treaty. Nazi and Uighur concentration camps. In some ways the Galwan Valley intrusion is akin to the Ardennes Offensive. Xi Jinping and Hitler. Desire to create the greatest military on earth and orchestrate operations. Public exhortation to prepare for war under garb of “peaceful rise”. If China is not checked now, a scourge will rule. India has provided a bridgehead to stem it. Will the world leaders heed the message and act? Or. Will they be Chamberlains at Potsdam to allow the reincarnation of Hitler?

Century of Self-Humiliation: Much is made that Chinese seek revenge on the “Century of Humiliation”. However what is hidden is the post imperial “Century of Communist Engineered Self Humiliation”. It encompasses two man-made famines, Civil War (the Long March), the failed Great Leap, Expansionism, the Purges and disastrous wars with Japan, Russia and Vietnam. Do not forget the disastrous “one child policy” which will hasten an aging China into decline. The Communist Party has distorted history and peddled it. We believed it. Chinese strategic thinking is insidious. We fell for it.

Strategic Myopia

 The Chinese are strategically myopic. It is now clear that too many tactical objectives were attempted through miscalculation without thinking through strategic ramifications or having a fall back option. PLA has failed in Ladakh in achieving its primary objectives. Indian infrastructure is intact, and its development is going to be trebled. All their enforcement actions are having opposite effects. India by itself has a bouquet of options to handle China. These are unfolding. The disastrous Galwan ambush and its handling have made India the underdog and everyone is rooting for it. World opinion, trust, and image matters to China. That is on India’s side. Any military confrontation with India runs the risk of driving the Indo US relationship closer. That has happened. Beyond that India and the US have discovered a strategic partnership paradigm where China can be forced into an adverse two front worst case option. Very importantly, China has managed to shred the One China Policy. Where are my bifocals? The Chinese are now caught in a situation. After Galwan, they cannot risk another setback. They cannot declare victory and go back after the hidden losses. After the PM’s talk, the area between Finger 4 and 8 is a mirage. Till they continue to sit there it will continue to fuel Indian and international antagonism to check the Chinese. If they continue to sit there past August, the elements will get them. Very importantly, this generation of Indians will always consider China as its enemy. They are not prepared for all this by any stretch of imagination. China might soon realize that Nations do not run on conflict and nationalism alone. Either democracy or economic prosperity must go with it. If one goes out, the other comes in. Need to get my long-term vision checked. Any Chinese ophthalmologist around?

Strategic Gains

Where does it leave India? Having stood up to China, international opinion has gravitated to our side despite some Chinese acolytes and disbelievers. The armed forces will stand resolute. That confidence and message is quite clear. Has China miscalculated the rise of India? That is what South China Morning Post thinks! Are we seeing the emergence of India as a new global power? That is what Dawn thinks! This event has probably paved the way for a seat on the UN high table. However we still need to focus on seeing the Chinese off properly. A process is underway. Let us have the strategic patience to go through the long haul. Till then do not trust the Chinese. Shoot first and talk later. In the meanwhile we must capitalise on the strategic opportunities which have opened. “Aatmanirbharta“, Decoupling and Distancing from China, Strategic Independence and Digital Leadership need to be converted into practical programmes and outcomes. That is also a long haul. That will be our victory.

 From little acorns grow mighty oaks.

Let us thank our boys at Galwan who stood fast and resolute in the face of odds,

 They have made it possible for India to hold its head high

 In the pantheon of things theirs might be a small tactical action

 It is that little acorn from which a mighty India will grow.

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

CADETS OF NCC DIRECTORATE GUJARAT TO BE DEPLOYED AT SURAT IN SUPPORT OF THE CIVIL ADMINISTRATION FOR COMBATING COVID-19 AS PART OF EXERCISE NCC YOGDAN

Ashish Singh

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As the nation is going through the second surge in Covid-19, NCC Cadets of Gujarat Directorate have volunteered to support Civil administration in various activities as part of the Exercise Yogdan II. In response to the requisition from DM Surat, 56 highly motivated Cadets (both boy Cadets and girl Cadets) have volunteered to provide relief efforts and assist in functioning of agencies employed in Covid-19 at Surat. More Cadets of Gujarat Directorate are likely to volunteer as the Exercise Yogdan II commences. Only Senior Division Boys and Senior Wing Girl Cadets of Gujarat Directorate above the age of 18, are being deployed to support the administration as part of NCC Exercise Yogdan II. All the Gujarat Directorate Cadets deployed would be Senior Volunteer Cadets and with proper Covid safety precautions and adequate care. The Cadets have undergone a thorough training on DOs and Dont’s on Covid Protocols before being deployed.

In addition, on announcement of Tika Utsav by the PM , the Cadets of Gujarat Directorate actively participated in spreading awareness about the necessity of getting Vaccinated and following Covid appropriate behaviour, through door to door interaction and circulating a large number of videos and messages on social media. The Directorate General NCC at Delhi has also made provisions to insure the volunteer Cadets adequately. DG NCC at Delhi has been actively involved and focussed in giving the necessary permission for the employment of cadets. Major General Arvind Kapoor ADG, NCC Directorate Gujarat, Dadra Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu informed that last year during Exercise NCC Yogdan I, Cadets of NCC Directorate Gujarat were deployed in maximum numbers which was highly appreciated by the dignitaries and the people of Gujarat. He further assured that all safety precautions related to Covid -19 will be ensured for the Cadets and staff of Gujarat Directorate employed in Exercise NCC Yogdan II. He also complimented the parents to have come forward and given their consent for the Cadets to be deployed.

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Defence

AUSTRALIA ANNOUNCES THE INDO-PACIFIC OCEANS INITIATIVE PARTNERSHIP WITH INDIA

Ashish Singh

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Australia’s High Commissioner to India, Barry O’Farrell AO, launched the Australia-India Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative Partnership (AIIPOIP) grant program to help support a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific underpinned by the rule of law and respect for sovereignty. “This AUD 1.4 million (INR 8.12 crore) grant program is a practical initiative to advance Australia and India’s shared vision for the Indo-Pacific”, High Commission O’Farrell said. “Through this program, we are seeking new proposals on how Australia, India and other regional partners can advance our shared maritime objectives”, he added.

 

The AIIPOIP grants program will help deliver practical outcomes under the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 14th East Asia Summit in November 2019. “Australia is proud to be co-leading with India the marine ecology pillar of the IPOI”, High Commissioner O’Farrell said. The first phase of this multi-year grant program will encourage proposals from Australian and Indian stakeholders to share expertise and resources, complementing the work under existing regional mechanisms such as ASEAN, the Indian Ocean Rim Association, and the Pacific Islands Forum. AIIPOIP is an outcome of the Australia-India Joint Declaration on a Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, signed by Australia’s Foreign Minister Senator Marise Payne and India’s External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar in June 2020, as part of the Australia-India Comprehensive and Strategic Partnership Agreement.

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Defence

PROTESTS BY TEHREEK-E-LABBAIK & ONGOING SITUATION IN PAKISTAN

Ashish Singh

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Tehreek-e-Labbaik, Pakistan (TLP) which draws its ideology from the Barelvi sect of Sunni Islam is a far-right Islamist political party in Pakistan, founded by Khadim Hussain Rizvi on 1 August 2015. TLP is known for its countrywide street power and massive protests in opposition to any perceived change to Pakistan’s blasphemy law or disrespect to Allah/Prophet Muhammad. Its first demonstration of street power came to light following the execution of Mumtaz Qadri the bodyguard of Salman Taser, the Governor of Punjab, who killed the Governor for publicly voicing his support for Asia Bibi (Aasiya Noreen). Qadri was hung on 29 February 2016, after which TLP supporters took to the streets across Pakistan, proclaimed him a martyr, chanted anti-government slogans and clashed with the police. A TLP patron, Pir Abdul Qadri, also called for the killing of the Supreme Court justices who ruled on the case and the Army Chief.

TLP, among other extremist religious outfits, was manoeuvred into mainstream politics by the country’s Army brass as one of its tools of political engineering. It was thought that carving out the far-right fringe from the conservative voter base of the PML-N, would damage it in the 2018 general elections, which proved correct & many PML-N candidates lost to PTI, as the voter base of PML-N gravitated towards PTI. Pak Army’s support for TLP was evident during their protest which took place from 8th November 2017, at Faizabad contesting changes in the Elections Bill 2017, demanding resignation of Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid. DG of Punjab Rangers, Major General Azhar Navid Hayat was seen distributing envelopes containing Rs 1,000 notes to the protesters. The ISI then ‘brokered’ a deal between the TLP and the government. Wrapping up the suo-moto case of Faizabad protests, the two bench judge which included Justice Qazi Faez, directed DG ISPR & ISI amongst others to operate within their mandate. The said Judge is now facing various charges of corruption reportedly on the behest of Pak Army & the ISI.

In October 2020, a teacher, Samuel Paty was beheaded in Paris by an Islamist terrorist reportedly for displaying a cartoon of Muhammad. French President Emmanuel Macron defended freedom of expression and the rights to publish such cartoons, after which widespread protests took place in Pakistan, with calls to boycott French products and sever diplomatic ties with France. In November 2020, activists of TLP demanded the expulsion of French Ambassador from Pakistan. The protests were called off on 16 November 2020 after the Government of Pakistan reached an agreement with TLP by seeking more time to discuss the matter in Parliament.

On 11 April 2021, TLP leader Saad Hussain Rizvi (son of founder Khadim Rizvi) released a video message asking TLP activists to launch protests across Pakistan if the government did not expel the French Ambassador from the country by 20 April 2021. On 12th April 2021, after Saad Rizvi was arrested in Lahore, protests broke out across the country, with TLP activists blocking roads and cutting off Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Gujranwala from each other. The protests turned violent with reports of stone pelting; at least two people were killed in the riots on 12 April 2021. In addition, TLP claimed that two protesters were shot dead in Faisalabad and Karachi. On 13th April 2021, one police officer was beaten to death by the rioting mob in Lahore, while 40 others were injured. TLP spokesperson Tayyab Rizvi claimed that the number of TLP workers “martyred” in the protests by the second day had increased to 12. A spokesperson of Punjab Police confirmed that two cops were killed by the protesters who used clubs, bricks and firearms to attack them. Paramilitary forces were brought in to assist the local police across various cities including Lahore, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi and Bahawalpur. On 15th April 2021, the French embassy in Pakistan advised French citizens and companies to temporarily leave Pakistan “due to serious threats”. Pak Government formally banned TLP under Anti-Terrorism Law. On 16 April 2021, Pak government blocked several social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and YouTube for around four hours fearing call of protests by TLP. Situation turned extremely violent on 18th April 2021, at Yateem Khana Chowk, Lahore where three people were killed and hundreds of others, including 15 policemen injured in a clash between TLP protestors and police. It was reported that the TLP workers took five policemen, among them a DSP, hostage after an attack on a police station. It has also been reported that the protesters have taken a 50000 litre petrol tanker with them precluding any massive operation against them for fear of collateral damage.

Tanzimat Ahl-e-Sunnat leader Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman has called for a nationwide shutter down strike on 19th April 2021, against the Lahore incident. It has also been reported that that the protesters will march with the dead bodies of their colleagues to Islamabad, demanding expulsion of French Ambassador, release of all TLP members jailed in various parts of Pakistan and action against Pak’s Interior Minister Mr Sheikh Rashid. JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman also supported Mufti Muneeb’s call for the shutter down strike showing growing collusive support for the protests among other radical Islamic groups in Pak. The protest that started over a cartoon of Muhammad in France has brought the entire nation to a standstill. The Pak social media is replete with hashtags like #CivilWarInPakistan, #Stop_Gov_Terrorism, #Lahore, #LahoreBurning, #iStandWithTLP, etc.

There have been widespread reports of Pak Army and police personnel defecting from the forces and openly coming out in support of the protesters. The military-intelligence establishment’s pathological obsession with legitimising groups that provide their own warped-version of Islam, has made the foundation of Pakistani society unstable and unpredictable. While PakistaniEstablishment is trying to enforce writ of the Government& present a positive image to the international audience, given its precarious economic condition, the possibility of the ongoing protest looming into a major crisis for Pak cannot be ruled out.

There have been widespread reports of Pak Army and police personnel defecting from the forces and openly coming out in support of the protesters. The military-intelligence establishment’s pathological obsession with legitimising groups that provide their own warped-version of Islam, has made the foundation of Pakistani society unstable and unpredictable.

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INDIAN NAVY SEIZES NARCOTICS WORTH RS 3,000 CRORE

Ashish Singh

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New Delhi: Indian Naval Ship Suvarna, whilst on surveillance patrol in the Arabian Sea, encountered a fishing vessel with suspicious movements. To investigate the vessel, the ship’s team conducted boarding and search operation, which led to the seizure of more than 300 Kgs of narcotics substances. The boat with its crew have been escorted to the nearest Indian Port of Kochi, Kerala for further investigation. The approximate cost the catch in the international market is estimated to be Rs 3,000 crore. This is a major catch not only in terms of the quantity and cost but also from the perspective of disruption of the illegal narcotics smuggling routes, which emanate from the Makran coast and flow towards the Indian, Maldivian and Sri Lankan destinations. Apart from the human costs from drug addiction, the spoils of narcotics trade feed syndicates involved in terrorism, radicalisation and criminal activities.

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RAJNATH SINGH REVIEWS PREPAREDNESS OF MOD AND ARMED FORCES AMID SPIKE IN COVID-19 CASES

The Defence Minister asks them to aid civilian administration to tide over the current coronavirus situation; gives go ahead for emergency procurement of critical medical supplies.

Ashish Singh

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held a virtual meeting to review the preparedness of Ministry of Defence and the armed forces to deal with the recent spike in Covid-19 cases across the country, in New Delhi on Tuesday. Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of Army Staff General M.M. Naravane, Director General Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) Surgeon Vice Admiral Rajat Datta, Secretary (Defence Production) Raj Kumar, Secretary Department of Defence R&D and Chairman Defence Research and Development Organisation Dr G. Satheesh Reddy, Financial Adviser (Defence Services) Sanjiv Mittal and other senior civil & military officers attended the meeting via video conferencing.

Rajnath Singh was briefed about the measures taken by AFMS, DRDO, Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and other organisations of Ministry of Defence such as National Cadet Corps (NCC) in providing aid to the civil administration in this hour of crisis. The Defence Minister was informed that a COVID care centre established by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is active in Bengaluru assisting the civil administration. He was informed that arrangements are being made by the DPSUs to buy oxygen plants that will help them in production of oxygen cylinders at a faster pace. The Defence Minister asked the DPSUs, OFB and DRDO to work on war footing to provide oxygen cylinders and extra beds to civil administration/state governments at the earliest. Rajnath Singh called upon the Armed Forces to be in close contact with the state governments and be ready to provide any required assistance. In a significant decision, the Defence Minister directed the Armed Forces and other stakeholders to go ahead with procurement of critical medical requirements under emergency powers of procurement.

DRDO Chairman briefed that a Covid-19 facility, developed by DRDO, has again been made functional in New Delhi and efforts are being made to soon increase the number of beds from 250 to 500. Dr Sathish Reddy informed the meeting that the ESIC Hospital, which was converted to Covid hospital in Patna, has started functioning with 500 beds and a Covid hospital will soon be made functional at Muzaffarpur in Bihar. He also informed that work is on at war footing to set up a 450-bed hospital in Lucknow, 750-bed hospital in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh and 900-bed hospital in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Rajnath Singh was also informed that based on the On-Board Oxygen Generation Technology developed for LCA Tejas, a 1000 litre/minute capacity oxygen generation plants technology has been given to the industry and the Uttar Pradesh government has placed order of five such plants with the industry. Dr Reddy informed the Defence Minister that more plants can be supplied by the industry to cater to the hospital requirements. He further said SpO2 (Blood Oxygen Saturation) based supplemental oxygen delivery system developed for soldiers posted at extreme high-altitude areas can be used for Covid patients as their conditions become similar. The product will be available soon in the market from the industry as per technology provided by DRDO. The Defence Minister was informed that the AFMS has mobilised its man power and other resources in various military hospitals dealing with Covid patients. To augment the manpower if required, the minister suggested to utilise the services of vaccinated retired Armed Forces personnel to assist the civil administration/state governments to deal with the current situation. During the meeting, Rajnath Singh also discussed ways to contain the spread of Covid-19 among the Armed Forces personnel and the officers/staff working in Ministry of Defence. He focused on Covid-appropriate behaviour at the work place, stressing on the need to strictly follow all the Covid protocols such as wearing of masks at all times and maintaining physical distancing.

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Defence

HERITAGE AS LEGACY IN THE EVOLUTION OF INDIA: CASE STUDY OF NAVAL DOCKYARD IN MUMBAI

The Indian terrestrial approach lured us away from the seas which were left almost unprotected.

Janhavi Lokegaonkar

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India is a maritime nation with a rich heritage. History records our oceanic links with other nations of Indian Ocean and beyond from the Harappan civilisation and lasting through the centuries. Indian maritime influence can be seen in all walks of Indian history. Our development is owed to the maritime economy and a gradual advancement of maritime infrastructure along the coastal frontiers. If we are to learn from our history, the biggest lesson is that the Indian terrestrial approach lured us away from the seas which were left almost unprotected. The failure amongst the Indians to perceive the potential threat from the maritime frontiers and percolate a maritime vision and policies among the masses was one of the grave problems that led to the rise of Colonial rule in India. This article highlights one facet as an outcome of “Manthan” or churn of the sea saga of Indian journey.

Under the Company and the Crown, the city of Bombay was developed further taking into consideration of all the physical features it had which gave it an edge. Even with self-gain as the motive, the emerging vision aided colonial officials to analyse the importance of the geography of Bombay and developed it as ‘Urbs Prima in Indis’-the premier city of the Empire.

Today as we traverse the heritage precinct of Fort area in South Mumbai, we are reminded of the lasting legacy that is the built heritage across the city’s waterfront. The Naval Dockyard that stands tall as a custodian of Mumbai’s coastline is a heritage facility in itself. The Wadia Master builders were commissioned to develop this shipbuilding and docking facility (erstwhile Bombay Dockyard) in Bombay in 1735. Today, this is used by the Western Naval Command of the Indian Navy that upholds its heritage and continues to maintain its legacy.

With the Industrial revolution in Europe, change was inevitable. In the wake of Industrialisation in England, there was a paradigm shift in the realms of production. Technology took over and since then it has only developed. Ironically, this phase also marks the deindustrialisation in the Indian subcontinent in order to facilitate and furnish the English industries. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the need for better docking and banking facilities at such a juncture is self-explanatory. The undertaking of construction for new dock building and related facilities was deemed necessary and beneficial for improving the efficiency of the maritime trade and commerce.

Bombay Dockyard and nearby facilities made ‘Ships-of-the-Line’ for the Royal Navy that were considered to be of superior quality and craftsmanship. The skills and nautical expertise of the Indian shipbuilders was a legacy in itself. But, the Indian shipbuilding industry that was once sought after met its downfall as the sail ships were replaced with the steam vessels. Despite such setback, this never deterred the Indian shipping industry. Bombay faced economic repercussions but the indomitable spirit of the city as we see today was blazing even then. After an initial slump in the shipbuilding industry, the Dockyard and other facilities gave rise to a number of other associated industries that aligned with the needs of the shipping sector thereby creating a market for economy with wider avenues. Soon, the docking facilities were equipped and gained momentum as a ship repair and refits industry which made a lot of progress.

Built heritage and maritime affairs intermingle with economic matters-thus creating a legacy and building a stronger future of our nation. A gradual progression in the maritime infrastructure and its resultant impact on the economy has played a vital role in the development of the Indian shipping sector. Promotion of our maritime heritage and traditions by a holistic development of the coastal communities by integrating them in the mainstream policies will ensure the promotion of our rich maritime legacy.

The evolution of the Mumbai city is owed to the maritime economy and due to harnessing of its maritime connect and development of the infrastructure. The role and contribution of the maritime sector in developing the city to what it is today must be acknowledged. The mushrooming of allied industries in the shipping industry is a subsequent factor. The economy of Bombay strengthened which led to the creation of an industrial infrastructure. This was the rise of a modern SEZ i.e. Special Economic Zone, a precursor to the modern metropolis that Mumbai has become today.

Shortly after the World Heritage Day commemorated on 18 April 2021 this week sees launch of a multi-stakeholder initiative to revive maritime consciousness in form of a unique workshop titled “Indian Maritime History : A Manthan”. In the two day workshop, 21 – 22 April 2021, Dr Malini Shankar, IAS (Retd), Vice Chancellor, Indian Maritime University will deliver the Keynote Address while Commodore Odakkal Johnson, Director, Maritime History Society will mentor the proceedings and provide the thematic setting. The contents will benefit students, faculty & maritime enthusiasts. The workshop will evolve elements of an approach towards a long-term facility for excellence in Maritime History as envisaged in Maritime India Vision 2030. Maritime History Society and Indian Maritime University invite an enthusiastic response toward the resurgence of Sea Mindedness through participation, promotion and resource infusion into the journey to enhance influence for greater maritime consciousness in India.

Janhavi Lokegaonkar is a Research Associate at Maritime History Society with a focus on modern aspects of Indian Maritime History

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