China’s economic, geographic, political and diplomatic assertion has made the Indo-Pacific the centre of gravity of international geopolitics. As long as the pandemic was raging and China was out of the grip of the Wuhan virus, its coercive actions could not be countered effectively in the Indo-Pacific region. However, all major powers have now started their vaccination programmes and are beginning to see light beyond the viral tunnel. The global recovery process is just about to begin and we are on the threshold of entering the post pandemic phase. It opens the way for Quad 3.0 to counter a predatory China.
China was busy consolidating its gains to fast track its global domination ambitions. It had finessed the EU through a trade deal and managed to drive wedges in the Trans-Atlantic construct. The RCEP put most of the Asia Pacific in its pocket including two members of the Quad—Japan and Australia. The US was having severe internal problems with the attack on the Capitol and deep polarisation within. The Quad seemed dead once again. Xi Jinping had made a pompous ‘carrot and stick’ speech at Davos. The outreach to East European countries has been positive. It was also busy with military probing in the Himalayas and the Taiwan Straits. China was literally basking in the sun. However, there are blips and internal issues are surfacing. The virus has reappeared and has forced China to impose widespread lock downs. This is slowing down its economy. Tightening screws on big tech firms indicates that China is worried that they might get too big to control. It is coming heavily down on dissenters of any kind. Its vaccine diplomacy is not going as per plan. Its plummeting birth rates due to lack of jobs/affordability of children paint a picture of tight internal conditions. This is a negative spiral which will lead to a decreased workforce in a rapidly ageing country.
It is at this juncture that the President Biden has stated that he foresees Extreme Competition with China. The US administration has also indicated that it intends to take the Quad forward. An online meeting of the Quad leaders to achieve a “Free and Open Indo-Pacific” is in the air. The French have announced that they have carried out a submarine patrol in the South China Sea. The UK has earlier announced that it will deploy a carrier task force in the area. The US has deployed two carriers repeatedly in the area in the recent past. This will make China sit up. While the arrival of the Quad 3.0 is good news it is also pertinent to assess what should be its contours.
At the outset, the behaviour of Quad 2.0 was conditioned by the fact that in Oct 2020, all the constituent countries were struggling to contain the virus and their economies were at the nadir. It was largely a defensive set of moves to stem the tide. The scene is far different now. All Quad countries have effective vaccines against the Virus. The US is galloping ahead with its vaccinations. India is on track. Australia and Japan seem to have their situation in hand as they are to shortly commence vaccinations. There is clarity that their economies will start reopening and recovering. The virus situation will be under control by the end of the year. Overall things are on the ascendancy. On the other hand, the economic situation in China is hazy. China’s vaccination programme has a long way to go to immunise their population. Till the population is immunised China can only resort to lockdowns, to keep the Virus at bay. Resultantly, China might be hitting an economic plateau. Quad strategies will be driven by this fact.
Earlier it was felt that aggressive Chinese behaviour was driving the Quad nations to coalesce. With their economic prospects relatively looking up, one might well ask – Is there a requirement for the Quad? In my opinion all Quad countries would have learned some lessons in the past one year. China is now too big to contain by a single power. It will need the combined heft of many. Having tasted success, China will not be deterred by a few blips. It will go all out to achieve what it wants in faster time frames to overcome the blips. In such a situation, there are enhanced dangers, down the line, of an unfettered China. Hence there is really no alternative but to commence transitioning to a formal agenda. There is no doubt in my mind that the Quad 3.0 will evolve faster than before. However, there are a few issues to consider.
What will be the outlook of Quad 3.0? Will the outlook of Quad 3.0 be to prevent China from dominating the South China Sea and its expansion into the larger Indo-Pacific? Prevention is defensive and incomplete by nature. The news that China, Russia and Iran want to hold naval exercises in the Indian Ocean, probably with Pakistan in the future, indicates the evolution of a counter Quad grouping. Very clearly, China is already attempting to break out from the confines of the South China Sea. On the other hand, will the outlook be to contain China? In my opinion, containment is more offensive and complete. Containment addresses the internal vulnerabilities of China. If those are addressed holistically, China will be reined in. Clarity in outlook is therefore important.
The next issue which Quad 3.0 has to seriously consider and resolve is that will it be a security-oriented grouping or will it move beyond that? Many opine that Quad 3.0 should focus beyond security issues and play a part in the post pandemic recovery. It implies that Quad 3.0 must have an economic agenda. Can it evolve beyond security into economic spheres? That is a huge challenge considering that all Quad countries are still deeply integrated with the Chinese economy. Specifically, Japan and Australia being part of RCEP, might have issues with an economic agenda for the Quad. However, it has to be realised that Quad nations are the best mix of consuming, producing and inventing economies. In fact, the US and India together can derail the vaccine diplomacy of China completely. The potential is therefore great. Will they have the political will to go the route and distance?
Another factor which Quad 3.0 has to consider is what will the role of ASEAN and European countries be in the current avatar. While ASEAN will have a role in economic issues, it will have a marginal role in military affairs. On the other hand, Quad will have to see how to bring France and the UK on its security platform so that a combined front is presented to China. The issue of Quad plus will also have to be revived and factored in. S Korea, Vietnam and New Zealand will have roles to play and be of value. However, how much they can contribute is a moot point due to their commitments in RCEP. Where does Taiwan fit into this equation? There is too much at stake militarily and economically to leave Taiwan out. Quad 3.0 will have a lot of diplomatic ground to cover if it has to achieve any of this.
A major issue to confront Quad 3.0 will be the type of governments in the region. The larger Indo Pacific region has many military rulers, strongmen, family rulers, one party states, kingdoms and weak democracies running Governments. China is comfortable with and has been very successful with such systems. It has a good grip on such nations. Further many of them are bound to China by huge financial commitments / debt traps related to ongoing BRI projects. It will be a tall order just to compete with China in such conditions. Uprooting China in this environment will be difficult and daunting. Quad 3.0 must have flexible alternatives to deal with the situation.
There is no doubt that the current informal Quad grouping will be a deterrent on China. However, a formal grouping will impose real caution. Hence Quad 3.0 must endeavour to establish some degree of formality. The Quad countries must also evolve a set of expected common outcomes based on shared principles and values at the earliest. Some kind of a common minimum programme will be welcome. Complicated issues will take time to crystallise and resolve. Hence it is important to build upon issues where success has been achieved. To this end, the Malabar Naval exercises provide a good platform to start advancing security cooperation on a programmed basis. From there one can move to other issues. Also there has been a lot of talk about Quad being an Asian NATO. Quad 3.0 has to be eventually more than that. The concept of a free and open Indo-Pacific can only be achieved through a strong Quad 3.0. As an extension, if Quad 3.0 must succeed it must have a clear-cut aim and a strategy to deal with China. That will be the topic of my next article on Quad.
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 www.gunnersshot.com.
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INS AIRAVAT REACHES JAKARTA WITH COVID RELIEF SUPPLIES FOR INDONESIA
Indian Naval Ship Airavat arrived at the Port of Jakarta, Indonesia, carrying essential COVID-19 relief supplies. The ship has brought five Cryogenic containers containing 100 MT of Liquid Oxygen and 300 Concentrates to support Indonesia in its fight against the ongoing pandemic.
INS Airavat is a Landing Ship Tank (Large) type of ship with a primary role to carry out amphibious operations and is capable of carrying multiple tanks, amphibious vehicles and other military cargo. The ship is also deployed for HADR relief operations and has been a part of various relief efforts across the Indian Ocean Region. India and Indonesia enjoy close cultural and commercial ties. Both countries have been working together in the maritime domain towards a safer Indo-Pacific. The navies regularly carry out joint naval exercises in the form of bilateral exercises and coordinated patrols.
22ND KARGIL VIJAY DIWAS CELEBRATIONS COMMENCE AT DRAS SECTOR IN KASHMIR
The celebrations of 22nd Kargil Vijay Diwas commenced at Kargil War Memorial, Dras on Sunday. Early in the morning, a special event narrating the stories of Operation VIJAY was organized by the Army at Lamochen near Dras where an account of the epic battles on Tololing, Tiger Hill, Pt 4875 and other prominent features was narrated with these very landmarks visible to the audience in front of their eyes. A number of military personnel including the gallantry award winners and families of Kargil War heroes attended the event. The narration took everyone down the memory lane showcasing the daring feat achieved by the valiant soldiers of Indian Army.
Later in the day, the venue of the celebrations shifted to the Kargil War Memorial. A Fusion Military Band put up a display which was followed by a solemn ‘Beating the Retreat’ Ceremony and a Memorial Service, where the attendees paid silent tribute to the fallen heroes. At the memorial, 559 Lamps were also lit, which were a symbolic reminder of lives sacrificed by 559 bravehearts for the Nation. The last event of the day was, ‘A Twilight with Brave Hearts’, with the soldiers at Polo Ground, Dras. In a special tribute to the heroes of Kargil War, musician Aman Chandra enthralled the audience with his musical performance during the eve. Later in the evening, a performance by the Fusion Band of Indian Army along with their lighted pipers was planned as a humble tribute to the valour of our brave soldiers. The trailer of Captain Vikram Batra’s biopic, ‘Shershah’ by Dharma Productions was also released and ‘Maa Teri Kasam’, a soulful and emotive song, conceptualised by Northern Command was screened.
COAST GUARD CARRIES OUT RESCUE AND RELIEF OPERATIONS AMID HEAVY RAINFALL AND FLOODS
Heavy rainfall over past week has triggered devastating floods in various districts of Maharashtra, Goa and Karnataka and many areas are still waterlogged. Indian Coast Guard was one of the first responders towards providing aid to the general populace at the request of civil authorities which is also one of the charter of duties of ICG, by promptly despatching Disaster Relief Teams (DRT) with inflatable Gemini boat and life saving gears to the affected areas.
ICG DRTs reached areas rendered unapproachable due to water inundation especially in Chiplun & Mahad districts of Maharashtra and Umlijoog, Khargejoog, Bodjug Island and kinnar village in Uttar Kannada district of Karnataka and with dedicated efforts evacuated the stranded persons to safety and provided required relief material. At Goa, Coast Guard aircraft have undertaken aerial assessment of Ganjem Dam, Usgaon and Codli areas. Coast Guard helicopter has air dropped approximately 100 kgs of relief materials including food packets and drinking water for the stranded people. ICG efforts have translated in saving of 215 precious lives under the current rescue operation till today across these three states. The services of Coast Guard air station at Ratnagiri are also being extended to IN and IAF aircrafts for airlifting of NDRF teams, relief material and facilitating rescue operations across the affected regions. In addition to the already deployed teams, the Coast Guard DRTs as well as ships & aircraft are standby at high readiness for immediate mobilization for exigencies, if any and a close coordination with local administration is being maintained.
FLOOD RELIEF OPERATIONS BY THREE SERVICES IN MAHARASHTRA, KARNATAKA AND GOA
The three Services have joined hands with the civil administration and national as well as the State Disaster Management authorities in relief and rescue operations in flood-affected areas of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa. Working in close coordination with the administrations of worst-hit Ratnagiri, Kolhapur and Sangli districts of Maharashtra, the Indian Army has deployed Task Forces, comprising Infantry, engineers, communication, recovery and medical teams in the affected areas. The teams conducted rescue and relief operations and saved precious lives in Chiplun, Shirol, Hatkangle, Palus and Miraj areas.
In Karnataka, the Indian Navy mobilised seven well-equipped flood relief teams along with Naval divers, rubber ‘Gemini’ boats, life jackets and medical equipment for flood relief operations. The teams evacuated 165 people from Singudda and Bhaire villages near Kadra Dam, while 70 people were evacuated from low lying areas of Kaiga. Naval Seaking, Advanced Light Helicopters & Indian Air Force MI-17 helicopters conducted multiple sorties and rescued people marooned due to sudden and sharp rise in the water levels. They also conducted aerial survey of the affected areas to enable senior officials to assess the situation and plan rescue and relief operations.
Around 400 personnel of National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) were airlifted by Indian Air Force aircraft from Bhubaneshwar, Kolkata and Vadodara to Pune, Kolhapur & Ratnagiri in Maharashtra and Goa along with 40 tons of rescue equipment. The teams of the three Services are working round the clock to rescue the locals affected by floods, besides providing them with food, water, medical. More rescue teams and aircraft are on standby for deployment.
INDIAN ARMY INTENSIFIES FLOOD RELIEF OPERATIONS IN MAHARASHTRA
With the unprecedented rains and resultant overflowing of various rivers, a number of areas in Ratnagiri, Kohlapur, Sangli and other districts of Maharashtra have been inundated. On request of civil administration, Southern Command has mobilised flood relief and rescue teams to assist the locals in flood affected areas. A total of 15 flood relief teams from Aundh Military Station and Bombay Engineering Group, Pune have been deployed for flood relief and rescue operations in Sangli, Palus, Burli and Chiplun. The columns are involved in rescue of local villagers stranded in submerged areas and in restoring normalcy in these inundated areas. Over 100 persons have been rescued from the affected areas to safe locations.
The Indian Army is also providing cooked meals and drinking water in tankers to the villagers. Medical camps have also been established wherein medical teams of Army Doctors and Nursing Assistants have been deployed for providing necessary first aid and medicines to locals being evacuated from flood affected areas. The Army also with its deployed engineering efforts cleared the main route at Posare Budruk village of Ratnagiri district which was blocked due to landslide. The Army has established a Flood Relief Operation War Room at the Pune based Headquarters Southern Command to monitor the ongoing situation. Additional 10 flood relief teams have been put on alert for any contingency.
INDIAN NAVY MOBILISES RESCUE TEAMS FOR FLOOD RELIEF AND EVACUATION
With large parts of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Goa reeling under extensive flooding of both urban and rural areas caused by incessant rains and consequent overflowing of riverbanks and dams over the last few days, the Western Naval Command of the Indian Navy has mobilised considerable resources to provide assistance to State and District administrations of affected areas.
Maharashtra: Based on request received for assistance from civil authorities, a total of seven Naval Flood Rescue Teams (FRT) from Mumbai have been deployed to Ratnagiri and Raigarh districts. One Seaking 42C Helicopter from, Mumbai was deployed for aerial reconnaissance at Poladpur/Raigad. One ALH helicopter from Goa was positioned at Ratnagiri for relief/rescue, additional Flood Rescue Teams are being maintained on a high degree of readiness at Mumbai, for immediate deployment.
Karnataka: At Karwar, Indian Naval Emergency Response Team (ERT) comprising 17 Divers, five Geminis, associated equipment such as Life Jackets and Life Buoys was deployed in the morning hours on Friday in response to a request for assistance from the District Collector, Uttara Kannada. District to rescue people stranded near Kadra Dam, Mallapur Kurnipet, Kaiga due to heavy rains / floods. The team was able to successfully evacuate over 100 stranded people at Singudda and Bhaire villages whilst rescue efforts are being continued at Kaiga and Mallapur. The rescued personnel were shifted to safe locations in coordination with the district administration. In an another swift Search and Rescue mission undertaken at Dongri in Gangavalli river belt, eight personnel stranded in two hotels were air lifted by Naval Advanced Light Helicopter (ALH), when local attempts for rescue were unsuccessful. The Naval ALH was launched from Goa and successfully completed rescue of the stranded people in over two hours.
Goa: In addition to providing aerial support to Karwar rescue efforts, A sortie was made to Ganjem near Ponda to check and verify the receding water levels. Another ALH has been deployed at flood affected Ratnagiri to undertake search and rescue missions.
INDIAN NAVY EXERCISES WITH ROYAL NAVY CARRIER STRIKE GROUP
Indian Navy participated in a three-day bilateral Passage Exercise (PASSEX) with Royal Navy Carrier Strike Group (CSG)-21 led by HMS Queen Elizabeth in the Bay of Bengal from 21st to 23rd July. The bilateral Maritime Exercise was designed to hone the ability of the two navies to operate together in the maritime domain. The maiden exercise between Indian Navy and the Royal Navy’s latest Aircraft Carrier, HMS Queen Elizabeth included participation of CSG-21 comprising Type 23 Frigates and an Astute-class submarine in addition to the other surface combatants. Indian Navy was represented by IN Ships Satpura, Ranvir, Jyoti, Kavaratti, Kulish and a submarine. Anti-Submarine Warfare capable Long Range Maritime Reconnaissance Aircraft P8I also participated in the exercise.
With the presence of the CSG-21 in the Indian Ocean, the ongoing exercise has afforded excellent opportunity to engage over the entire spectrum of maritime operations including ASW, Anti-Air and Anti-Surface warfare. The exercise also witnessed the maiden participation of the F 35 B Lightning which operate from the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth. Regular IN-RN interactions over the years have augmented their professional content, interoperability and adaptability in the ever-changing security scenarios. The inter-operability achieved over the years has ensured a quantum jump in the complexity and scale of professional exchanges which is being further enhanced by the presence of the Royal Navy’s Carrier Strike Group in the Indian Ocean.
Both the UK and India are in the midst of a carrier renaissance, with the CSG spearheading the UK’s Joint Expeditionary capability. The joint endeavour provides tangible security to friends and a credible deterrence to those who seek to undermine global security. An Indian warship will also exercise with the Royal Navy off the coast of the UK in August. First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Tony Radakin said, “This is a month that will see the Royal Navy and Indian Navy meet and work together in two oceans – beginning in the Indian Ocean as the UK Carrier Strike Group arrives for the first of multiple UK-India exercises and events. Later this summer, both will participate in a separate exercise in the Atlantic Ocean. The deployment is proof of the strength, energy and significance of the growing relationship between our navies.”Chief of Joint Operations, Vice Admiral Sir Ben Key said, “The UK and India are key defence partners and the Carrier Strike Group’s deployment is a symbol of Global Britain in action, showcasing our commitment to India, the Indo-Pacific region, and confronting threats to international order.”Commodore Steve Moorhouse, Commander United Kingdom Carrier Strike Group, mentioned, “As HMS Queen Elizabeth and her Carrier Strike Group cross the Indian Ocean, it is only natural that we should exercise with the Indian Navy. At the strategic level, the exercise is a muscular expression of the closer defence partnership that Prime Ministers Johnson and Modi envisaged when they agreed the UK-India Roadmap 2030 earlier this year.”
As part of its maiden operational deployment, the CSG will sail over 26,000 nautical miles, engaging with 40 countries from the Mediterranean to the Indo-Pacific and back again. The fifth generation HMS Queen Elizabeth carrier, at 65,000 tonnes, is the largest surface vessel ever constructed in the UK. Taller than Niagara Falls, her propellers generate the power of 50 high-speed trains. She leads six Royal Navy ships, a Royal Navy submarine, a US Navy destroyer and a frigate from the Netherlands in the largest concentration of maritime and air power to leave the UK in a generation. It is equipped with the fifth generation F-35B Lightning multi-role aircrafts. They are being jointly crewed by the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy and the US Marine Corps. From defending democratic values and tackling shared threats, to seizing new trade opportunities through engagements with Singapore, the Republic of Korea, Japan, India and others, the deployment marks a step-change in UK engagement in the region. The UK is already investing significantly in the region by seeking ASEAN Dialogue Partner status, kicking off negotiations to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and rapidly progressing trade talks with Australia, New Zealand and India.
DRDO CONDUCTS SECOND SUCCESSFUL FLIGHT TEST OF AKASH-NG IN THREE DAYS
Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) conducted a successful flight-test of New Generation Akash (Akash-NG), a surface-to-air missile from Integrated Test Range, Chandipur off the coast of Odisha at 1145 hrs on Friday. The test was carried out against a high-speed unmanned aerial target which was successfully intercepted by the missile. The flight test has validated the functioning of complete weapon system consisting of the missile with indigenously developed RF Seeker, Launcher, Multi-Function Radar and Command, Control & Communication system. The test was carried out amidst inclement weather conditions proving the all-weather capability of the weapon system. The system performance was validated through the data captured by a number of Radar, Telemetry and Electro Optical Tracking systems deployed by ITR, Chandipur. A team of Indian Air Force Officers witnessed the test.
First test on Wednesday was done successfully without seeker meeting all the mission requirements
DRDO successfully flight-tested the New Generation Akash Missile from Integrated Test Range (ITR) off the coast of Odisha on Wednesday. The flight trial was conducted at around 12:45 pm from a land-based platform with all weapon system elements such as Multifunction Radar, Command, Control & Communication System and launcher participating in deployment configuration. The missile system has been developed by Defence Research & Development Laboratory (DRDL), Hyderabad in collaboration with other DRDO laboratories. The launch was witnessed by the representatives of Indian Air Force. In order to capture flight data, ITR deployed a number of Range stations like, Electro Optical Tracking System, Radar and Telemetry. The flawless performance of the entire weapon system has been confirmed by complete flight data captured by these systems. During the test, the missile demonstrated high manoeuvrability required for neutralising fast and agile aerial threats. Once deployed, the Akash-NG weapon system will prove to be a force multiplier for the air defence capability of the Indian Air Force. Production agencies Bharat Electronics Limited (BEL) and Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL) also participated in the trials.
Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh has congratulated DRDO, Indian Air Force and the Industry on the second successful flight test of Akash-NG in a span of three days. He said the development of this state-of-the-art missile system will prove to be a force multiplier for air defence capabilities of Indian Air Force. Secretary, Department of Defence R&D and Chairman DRDO Dr G Satheesh Reddy congratulated the teams for successful trial of Akash NG which is capable of intercepting high speed and agile aerial threats.
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