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INDIA-US 2+2 CAN’T YIELD DESIRED SUCCESS MINUS STRONG QUAD

Success of Quad is an essential condition for a comprehensive success of the 2 plus 2 dialogue as the security and stability in the Indo-Pacific are based upon strong quadrilateral ties. Only then can we handle the Chinese well.

Lt Gen Dushyant Singh (retd.)

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Japan prefers the mechanism of 2 plus 2 dialogue to engage a country diplomatically. It has perfected this art to a finesse. Taking a cue from Japan, India since 2010 adopted the same model. However, it restricted itself only to Japan. The outcome of 2 plus 2 talks with Japan has been very encouraging. For example, holding of bilateral and trilateral Naval Exercises such as Malabar 2019 and MINEX, between Indian Navy, Japanese Maritime Self Defence Forces (JMSDF) and the US. Similarly, participation in exercises ‘Dharma Guardian’ and ‘Shinyuu Maitri’ in 2018 and COPE India between Army and Air Forces of India, Japan and the US. On the diplomatic front when India refused to join the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) at the Hong Kong summit, many thought that Japan would insist on India to join the RCEP. But displaying understanding of India’s concerns, Japan voiced that it would not be a part of RCEP unless India is on board. Further, there are multiple areas in defence technology where cooperation between the two countries are on the anvil such as Visual Simultaneous Localization & Mapping (SLAM) Based Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and Augmentation Technology for UGV/robotics. Also, we may see 30% manufacturing of an amphibious plane Shin Maywa US-2 and acquisition of an armed Sea Guardian drone. Because of the success of the 2 plus 2 mechanism with Japan, India has adopted this dialogue framework with the US also. The current 2 plus 2 dialogue was aimed to deepen the Indo – US relations.

The current, 2 plus 2 dialogue between India and US is the third edition in the series. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defence Mark T. Esper visited India from 26 to 27 October 2020. The aim was to strengthen regional security cooperation, defence information sharing, military to military interaction and defence trade. Highlights of the joint statement issued on 27 October 20 by Ministry of External Affairs, Government of India from national security perspective are:

1) Elevation of relationship to Comprehensive Global Strategic Partnership.

2) Resolve to strengthen cooperation in the development of vaccines, therapeutics, diagnostics, ventilators, and other essential medical equipment.

3) Commitment to maintaining a free, open, inclusive, peaceful, and prosperous Indo-Pacific built on a rules-based international order; underpinned by ASEAN centrality, rule of law, sustainable and transparent infrastructure investment, freedom of navigation and over flight, mutual respect for sovereignty, and peaceful resolution of disputes.

4) Expand joint capacity building efforts with partner countries in the Indo-Pacific. And participate in multilateral peacekeeping training exercises.

5) Promoting a sovereign, peaceful, united, democratic, inclusive, stable, and secure Afghanistan, including support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

6) A US promise of strong support for India’s permanent membership in a reformed UNSC and membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

7) Recounted the Major Defense Partnership (MDP) between India and the United States. They also commended the significant step of signing of the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA), enhanced maritime information sharing and maritime domain awareness. The two sides confirmed their commitment to build upon existing defence information-sharing at the joint-service and service-to-service levels and explore potential new areas of mutually beneficial cooperation.

8) Commitment to pursue increased cooperation between the Indian military and US Central Command and Africa Command, including broader participation in exercises and conferences, so as to promote shared security interests.

9) Two sides emphasized the importance of Defence Technology and Trade Initiative (DTTI), and stated their intent to fast track projects under DTTI.

10) Cooperation in the sphere of defence innovation between the US and India was welcomed. The virtual meeting between the Indian Defence Innovation Organization (DIO- IiDEX) and US Defense Innovation United (DIU) in July 2020 came in for praise. They also looked forward to the inaugural Industrial Security Annex (ISA) Summit later this year which would further strengthen defence industrial cooperation between both countries. As part of bilateral ties, our Ministers noted with satisfaction the significant strides made under the four Pillars of Strategic Energy Partnership (SEP) covering Oil & Gas, Power and Energy Efficiency, Renewables and Sustainable Growth. They also appreciated the progress made under the India-US Gas Task Force and the launch of industry-led projects. They welcomed the announcement of new priorities and roadmap for each of the Pillars during the Ministerial meeting of the SEP held on July 17, 2020. With the objective of intensifying cooperation in the area of Strategic Petroleum Reserves (SPRs), the Ministers welcomed the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding in this regard.

11) The Ministers welcomed the virtual convening of the 17th meeting of the India-US Counter Terrorism Joint Working Group and the 3rd Session of the India-US Designations Dialogue on September 9-10, 2020. They also reaffirmed their support for an early adoption of UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) that would advance and strengthen the framework for global cooperation and reinforce the message that no cause or grievance can ever justify terrorism.

12) Two sides were looking forward to the launch of NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) satellite by 2022. Commitment to sharing Space Situational Awareness information, which will catalyze efforts to create the conditions for a safe, stable, and sustainable space environment. They also expressed the intent to continue the India-US Space Dialogue as well as discussions on areas of potential space defense cooperation.

In summary, India has gained considerably from the dialogue. Especially in defence information sharing, signing of BECA, military to military interaction and extending this interaction to other countries of the Quad—Japan and Australia. This would further benefit India if Quad is enhanced to include the important EU countries especially France. Without doubt, the dialogue is a positive development but there are question marks on the outcome as to its success. What is going to be the impact of important international events such as the US presidential election and efficacy of Quad and international conflict theatres such as Afghanistan and the Middle East? A number of positives have come out from the dialogue for India, the most important being the signing of BECA and sharing of Geospatial Information. Pakistani media is abuzz and surprised with this development.

TIMINGS OF THE DIALOGUE

With the US elections mere days away the timings of the dialogue are questionable. India-US policy will undergo a change with a change of the Presidency, Kamala Harris a semi Indian origin Vice Presidential running mate notwithstanding. The current election trends put Biden well ahead of Trump but as they say, it is difficult to stick one’s neck out these days on poll outcomes due to sheer volatility of behaviour by people. What could change the equation is the toss up states numbering 134 Electoral College seats. It has happened in the past that despite garnering country wide popular votes, candidates have ended on the losing side due to winner take it call policy of the Electoral College seats from a state should a candidate win that particular seat. Hillary Clinton in 2016 is the latest case in point. Margin of votes becomes immaterial. Further, Trump is known to spring surprises. But a rational analysis of trends indicates Biden moving into the White House after the elections. A Biden win despite some pro-India policy statements by Biden, Sino-American relations will shift from conflict driven intent to competition driven intent. Such an approach will render the current India-US agreements under review and moderation. Even the presence of Kamala Harris, the Vice Presidential running mate of Biden, is unlikely to help. As per Navtej Sarna, former Ambassador to the US and many other experts, she is known to be a strong defender of human rights. Such an attitude will not help India as far as the US stands on J & K and other internal security operations in Left Wing Extremism (LWE) and North East (NE) are concerned, however, incorrect her perceptions may be on these matters. Similarly, Biden, as per a recent report in Deutsche Welle (DW) dated 16 October 20, has expressed disappointment with the Indian government over its new citizenship law and called for the restoration of the rights of all Kashmiris. In contrast, Trump has refrained from making any comments on events following our policy decisions pertaining to Kashmir, NAA and NRC. To make matters worse the Russians do not need the Indians, as Putin is growing closer to the modern incarnation of Mao—Xi Jinping. Economic compulsions of Russia override Indo-Russian relationship. Chinese may also get emboldened and push further in other areas to claim operational advantage in the Eastern Sector where operations are feasible during winters in certain areas through their now famous salami slicing strategy to offset the advantage gained by Indian occupation of tactically important heights on the Kailash ranges before the new administration settles down. This may leave India with very limited options at least until the spring. We need to be prepared for such an eventuality.

EFFICACY OF QUAD

As per reports, the two sides did speak about India’s military stand-off with Chinese Army that has continued for over 175 days and led to the Galwan bloodshed in eastern Ladakh as well in June. The two sides did make an oblique reference to China that has driven India, the United States, Japan and Australia as part of Quad, or Quadrilateral Security Dialogue. Therefore, success of Quad is an essential condition for a comprehensive success of the 2 plus 2 dialogue as the security and stability in the Indo-Pacific are based upon strong quadrilateral ties. Only then can we expect the Chinese to be fixed on two fronts. There is no doubt the outcome of the current 2 plus 2 dialogue has been very encouraging. The commitments in defence and bilateral ties if pursued meaningfully will force China to look at a two front scenario especially in the backdrop of strong Quad which some experts also tout as the NATO of the East. However, is Quad really NATO of the EAST? In its current state, there are serious doubts about its efficacy and effectiveness especially in the event of a conflict involving China. The outcome of the 6 October 2020 Quad meet in Tokyo has sent mixed signals. Just before resigning, Japanese Premier Shinzo Abe engineered a reconciliation with Beijing after years of frosty ties, with support from businessmen and China-friendly Liberal Democratic Party politicians. As per report by Anthony Kuhn and Chie Kobayashi, it is probably due to this that the Japanese spokesperson in the press brief insisted on stating, “Quad meet was not held with any particular country in mind.” Similarly, the Australian Foreign Minister responding to Mike Pompeo tirade against the Chinese had responded in July 2020 that “Let me reiterate that we make our own decisions.” These developments cast a major doubt on the operationalisation of Quad and by corollary Quad’s ability to respond to any Chinese activity directed against India barring some vocal support and condemnation. In any case, India must NOT expect any overt support from the Quad in case of any hostilities especially when member countries have strong trade and commercial interests with China. Therefore, ultimately India may have to rely entirely on the good will of the US for responding to a Chinese threat. This also dictates a careful approach to National Security issues and assessments by Indian Security Establishments. Quad without a commitment of enduring material and moral support is an exercise in futility. Merely conducting joint exercises is not going to pay any material dividends in conflict with China other than some diplomatic support in the form of condemnations. It also implies the need for robust bilateral alliances with Strategic partners such as the US and France. Australia and Japan currently appear heavily weighed down by economic considerations. And should Biden become the President of the US we may see a further drawdown in the Sino-American relations, which will severely restrict India’s options in dealing with China.

FINAL TAKE

Mike Pompeo visited India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Male, and Hanoi to build support for the US against the Chinese activities in the Indo-Pacific. Not only will this help in keeping the anti-china momentum going but also help in making it irreversible should the Presidency change. Largely Pompeo has been successful in this endeavour barring some hesitancy by Japan and Australia. Even Indian Foreign Minister refrained from directly naming China. When asked if Beijing was a factor, he had said, “There isn’t one factor, there are two factors. One is called India; the other is called the United States of America. If you look at the growth of this relationship, as I pointed out in virtually every domain, it’s been—it’s actually been very, very remarkable over the last 20 years, but I would say especially the last few years.” The statement avoids any direct reference to Beijing, but the support to the US is prominently visible. The conservative approach of the Foreign Minister may also be coming from his career diplomat background and outlook. However, the RM who is a thoroughbred politician was more forthright in pointing out India’s displeasure with China. According to a US Department of State readout dated 27 October 2020, RM Sh. Rajnath Singh mentioned that, “in the area of defense we are challenged by reckless aggression on our northern borders.” A statement which was diplomatically omitted in the final statements.

For India, the key issues of immediate concern are confrontation with China, deepening of the India-US strategic ties especially in the area of defence and economy, securing of Indian interest in Afghanistan post the US pull out and a stable and secure IOR & Indo-Pacific. India would also welcome a Chinese fix in the South China and East China Sea to force it to look at a two front scenario. This can only be achieved through a strong India-US bilateral ties going beyond the current levels. Quad is still undergoing birth pangs and does not appear to have the capability to hold China at bay. India has signed three important agreements with US, COMCASA, LEMOA and BECA. It must be noted with some satisfaction the US has signed these agreements only with close partners to enable interoperability of forces and exchange of sensitive and classified information. Further, in February this year, the two countries had sealed defence deals worth $3 billion. India needs to work in a manner that the gains in any eventuality irrespective of who the next President of the US is, the current agreements are taken to their fruition.

Lt Gen Dushyant Singh (retd) has served in varied terrains and theatre of operations, in Indiaand in the UN as Military Observer. He has commanded an Infantry Battalion, Brigade and aDivision in Jammu and Kashmir. He is currently Professor Emeritus Defence Studies at GujaratRaksha Shakti University. Twitter handle: @dushy40098

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Defence

UP CM INAUGURATES ISDA 2021; ALIGARH NODE OF UP DEFENCE CORRIDOR TO BE INAUGURATED BY AUGUST

Ashish Singh

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The Society of Indian Defence Manufacturers (SIDM), in partnership with the Confederation on Indian Industry (CII) and the Uttar Pradesh Expressways Industrial Development Authority (UPEIDA), is organizing the Indigenisation Summit on Defence and Aerospace (ISDA) 2021 from 28th to 31st July. Speaking at the Inaugural Session of ISDA 2021, Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath said that the Defence corridor in UP is a greenfield project and the industries coming alongside the six nodes of the corridor can benefit immensely from the scheme by becoming part of the ecosystem. 1409 hectares of land has been earmarked under the corridor. The project proposals received so far from 54 companies would create employment of more than sixteen thousand people. He shared that development of roads, electricity, water & boundary walls are underway for the Aligarh node and the inauguration of the Aligarh node, comprising of 74 hectares of industrial land divided into 19 units is proposed in August 2021.

Sharing that 2500 crores have been earmarked by the central government for promoting investments in the defence corridors, he said that land banks were being created for zones where there is a greater demand of land for investment projects. The state government along with the Defence Ministry is also working on the establishment of labs under the Common facilitation centre, Defence testing and Infrastructure scheme which would benefit MSMEs & Start-ups in prototyping, technology training as well as design & development. The state government has also established centres of excellence at IIT Kanpur, BHU for a greater engagement between the Indian navy, industry & academia. The first instalment of the grant for research & development at these centres has already been disbursed & the second is under consideration. Awanish Awasthi, ACS-Home & CEO, UPEIDA noted that the vision of the UP government is to attain 1st position as a business destination. Speaking on the progress of the nodes of the Defence corridor, he mentioned that infrastructure development to the tune of 32 crores is underway at Aligarh and the node is expected to be ready for inauguration by August 2021.

The Kanpur node, where 25 crores has been assigned infrastructure development would also be ready in a couple of months whereas the Jhansi node work would be taken up in the next six months. Chairman ISDA 2021 & Chairman, CII Northern Region Committee on Defence & Aerospace Manoj Gupta remarked that a strong and empowered defence ecosystem is crucial for any country seeking to emerge as a significant global player. With the thrust provided by the ‘Make in India’ movement, today India’s exports are to the tune of ten thousand crores which was merely five hundred crores eight years back. Measures like only domestic tenders for contracts below 200 crores, increasing FDI limit in defence production from 49% to 74%, greater number of production categories, defence offset program as well as an updated DAP 2020 will further embolden the defence manufacturing in the country. He further pointed out that a higher offset for defence industries as well as a single-window system for license issuance for the defence manufacturers will go a long way in making UP a hub for defence & aerospace. Jayant Patil, President, SIDM pointed out that the reforms pertaining to the defence sector are focused on building capacity. This is evident through the 15% increase in defence budget allocation. He also highlighted that two-thirds of the defence budget is now dedicated to purchases from Indian industries, of which 20% has been reserved for MSMEs. Patil mentioned that 208 items have been moved to the positive list now hence no imports of these items would be allowed into the country to promote the Indian manufacturers. He highlighted that Indian is expected to be the security provider in the Region, for which the industry can prove to become the sixth arm of the Indian Defence system. Speaking on the occasion, Sachin Agarwal, Chairman, SIDM UP Chapter pointed out that today, close to 8000 Defence Sector MSMEs, primarily from tier 2 and tier 3 cities form the backbone and are the largest part, in terms of volume, of the Industry. He also mentioned that the industries that are bound to grow and mature in this phase of development will find that UP can provide the necessary infrastructure and support needed to augment production and services. Agarwal highlighted that the Government planning to spend $250 billion over the next 10 years for the modernization of its Forces and the Industry will have a critical role to play in meeting these demands. Ashmita Sethi, Co-Chairman, CII Northern Region Committee on Defence & Aerospace spoke about the various emerging technologies being deployed in defence manufacturing for which UP can become a potential hub. These included defence electronics, MRO facilities, space related research & development, electric military vehicles among others. Over the 3 day period, Sessions with UPEIDA, DPSUs and the Services HQs will be held to generate awareness about opportunities available for the Industry vis-a-vis Defence Manufacturing.

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Defence

IAF FORMALLY INDUCTS RAFALE AIRCRAFT INTO NO. 101 SQUADRON

Ashish Singh

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The Indian Air Force formally inducted Rafale aircraft into No. 101 Squadron at Air Force Station Hasimara in Eastern Air Command (EAC) on Wednesday. Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) presided over the induction ceremony. On arrival, CAS was received by Air Marshal Amit Dev, Air Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Eastern Air Command. The event also included a fly-past heralding the arrival of Rafale aircraft to Hasimara followed by a traditional water cannon salute.

Addressing the personnel during the induction ceremony, CAS said that the induction of Rafale had been carefully planned at Hasimara; keeping in mind the importance of strengthening IAF’s capability in the Eastern Sector. Recalling the glorious history of 101 Squadron which bestowed upon them the title of ‘Falcons of Chamb and Akhnoor’, CAS urged the personnel to combine their zeal and commitment with the unmatched potential of the newly inducted platform. He said that he had no doubt that the Squadron would dominate whenever and wherever required and ensure that the adversary would always be intimidated by their sheer presence.

101 Squadron is the second IAF Squadron to be equipped with Rafale aircraft. The Squadron was formed on 01 May 1949 at Palam and has operated Harvard, Spitfire, Vampire, Su-7 and MiG-21M aircraft in the past. The glorious history of this Squadron includes active participation in 1965 and 1971 Indo-Pak wars.

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RAJNATH SINGH ADDRESSES SCO DEFENCE MINISTERS’ MEETING IN DUSHANBE ‘

Ashish Singh

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh congratulated Member-States of the SCO on successful completion of 20 years of its existence. He said that though India joined the organisation in 2017, historical and civilisational relations and geographical connects make India inseparable from the SCO. Addressing the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Defence Ministers’ meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on Wednesday Defence Minister Rajnath Singh said, Terrorism is the most serious threat to international peace and security. “Any act of terror and support to such acts, including cross border terrorism, committed by whomsoever, wherever and for whatever motives, is a crime against humanity,” he added. The Defence Minister reaffirmed India’s resolve to fight terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Rajnath Singh emphasised, “India accords high priority to the consolidation of trust in the security domain within SCO as well as strengthening ties with SCO partners bilaterally on the basis of equality, mutual respect and understanding.” The challenge today is not just one of concepts and norms, but equally of their sincere practice, he added.

Stressing on the importance of the regional group, Rajnath Singh said, “The SCO Nations, together, encompass nearly half the human population on our planet. In terms of geography, it covers approximately three fifths of the Eurasian continent. We, therefore, have collective stakes to create a safe, secure and stable region that contributes towards progress and improvement of human development indices of our people and the generations which will follow.” He pointed out that it is in the same spirit India helps people of Afghanistan, which is facing violence and devastation over decades. So far India completed 500 projects in Afghanistan and continuing with some more with total development aid of US dollar 3 billion. Speaking about geo-strategic location of India that makes it both a Eurasian land power and also a stake-holder in the Indo-Pacific, the Defence Minister said, “Our intent and aspirations are therefore focused towards prosperity and development of the entire region. We affirm this intent through our national policy of Security and Growth for All in the Region, commonly known by the acronym SAGAR.” Security and Stability are most essential components to create conducive environment for growth and economic development of the region and of our respective Nations, he added.

Reiterating India’s resolve to work within the SCO framework for helping create and maintain a peaceful, secure and stable region, Rajnath Singh highlighted, “India also reiterate commitments to partner with fellow SCO Member-States to develop joint institutional capacities that respect individual national sensitivities and yet generate a spirit of cooperation to create contact and connectivity between people, societies and nations.” Referring to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Defence Minister said “It has affected nations, civil societies and citizens in multiple ways. This is a warning sign of how non-traditional security challenges like pandemics, climate change, food security, water security and associated societal disruptions can impact national and international landscape.”

Rajnath Singh said the Armed Forces and the Defence Research and Development Organisation played a stellar role in efforts against Covid-19. He said, “During the global pandemic, India was able to provide support and assistance to countries around the world. This includes 6.6 crore doses of vaccines to 90 countries, support with medicine, medical consumables and equipment to 150 countries. We may mention the massive ‘Vande Bharat’ logistic service to move over 70 lakh stranded people, including foreigners, mostly by air route, but also by our ships in the Indian Ocean.”

Defence Minister assured, “India plans to produce well over 250 crore doses of vaccines between August and the end of 2021.We are determined to vaccinate at least 90 crore adult Indians and to help other friendly countries with vaccine.”

The Defence Minister called upon Member-Nations to evolve to meet the needs of its time. He said, “No institution, howsoever important, can remain frozen at the moment of its foundation. The inherent strength of SCO lies in the fact that Member-States participate in cooperation programme at their own pace and as per respective national policies. We are glad that SCO has evolved as truly an international organisation of significance.” Event of today is yet another step towards strengthening stability and security in the region. This will serve to further development of multilateral cooperation within the SCO format, he added.

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Defence

INDIAN NAVY & IDFC FIRST BANK OFFER HONOUR FIRST BANKING SOLUTIONS TO NAVAL PERSONNEL

Ashish Singh

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IDFC FIRST Bank announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Indian Navy to offer Honour First, a premium banking solution, to serving personnel and veterans of the Indian Navy. Honour First is specially designed keeping in mind the needs of the Armed Forces community. It includes a zero balance salary Honour First salary account with unlimited free ATM transactions from any location, free fund transfers through IMPS, RTGS, and NEFT, free lost card liability protection and purchase protection. It has an accident insurance cover of Rs 46 lakh which include a children education grant of Rs. 4 lakh for wards of age up to 23 years and an additional Rs 2 lakh for girl child marriage cover for daughters in the age bracket of 18 years to 25 years. The MoU for Honour First was signed at the Naval Headquarters in New Delhi between Commodore Neeraj Malhotra, Commodore – Pay and Allowances, Indian Navy and Colin D’Souza, Head – Corporate Salary, IDFC First Bank.

Indian Navy is responsible to safeguard the maritime frontiers of the country including the island territories against external aggression as also assist in the safety of the world sea lanes in the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Speaking on the occasion, Amit Kumar, Head-Retail Liabilities & Branch Banking, IDFC First Bank, said, “It’s a proud moment for us. The association couldn’t have come at a better time as the Indian Navy celebrates the Golden Jubilee of the 1971 war. The Honour First solution is customised to the needs of Naval personnel and stands rooted in our customer-first and nation-first approach. We are constantly improving our offerings using state-of-the-art technology for a superior customer experience. It is a privilege for us to now serving the Indian Navy with an array of our convenient banking services, digitised financial solutions and enhanced access.” Malhotra said, “I welcome the initiative of IDFC First bank to offer customised banking solutions to suit the needs of Indian Navy and its personnel.”

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FLEET AWARD CEREMONY OF WESTERN NAVAL COMMAND HELD AT MUMBAI AFTER ONE-YEAR GAP

Ashish Singh

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The Fleet Award Ceremony each year marks the end of the operational cycle of the Western Fleet, the Sword Arm of the Western Naval Command. The ceremony was held at Mumbai after a gap of a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. This year, the ceremony was hosted by Rear Admiral Ajay Kochhar, Flag Officer Commanding Western Fleet. The ceremony marked the operational achievements of the Fleet from April 2020 to March 2021. The event was attended by Flag Officers of Western Naval Command with Vice Admiral R Hari Kumar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Western Naval Command as the Chief Guest.




The ceremony hosted this year was a modest one in adherence to Covid norms. While the attendance was in limited numbers, the achievements of the Fleet were numerous as expected of the Sword Arm. A total of 20 trophies were given away covering a myriad spectrum of naval operations, safety practices and morale. INS Kolkata was awarded the ‘Best Ship’ among the capital ships for exhibiting immaculate grit whilst undertaking a plethora of maritime operations. INS Tarkash was awarded the ‘Most Spirited’ ship for an awe-inspiring display of enthusiasm and morale in all Fleet activities, exercises at sea and indomitable spirit. INS Deepak won the award of ‘Best Ship’ in the category of Tankers and OPVs.

The year covering the operational cycle from April 2020 to March 2021 was anything but ordinary. While the norm of the hour was to work from home, the Western Fleet remained mission deployed and poised for action during the challenging period last year. The Western Fleet also contributed immensely to Covid relief missions in support of the National effort to fight the pandemic. The ships and aircraft of the western fleet also undertook daring rescue operations to save innumerable lives when cyclone Tauktae struck the western coast of India. Today’s ceremony also paid a tribute to the sacrifices of the men and their families who put the call of duty before themselves for all these missions. The Sword Arm remains the first responder, operationally deployed, combat-ready and stood too.

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Defence

US STATE SECRETARY BLINKEN ARRIVES IN NEW DELHI ON A TWO-DAY VISIT

Ashish Singh

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The USA State Secretary Antony J. Blinken has landed in New Delhi on a two-day visit to reaffirm the United States’ commitment to strengthening Indo-US partnership and underscore cooperation on shared priorities. Secretary Blinken will meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar to discuss a wide range of issues, including continued cooperation on Covid-19 response efforts, Indo-Pacific engagement, shared regional security interests, shared democratic values, and addressing the climate crisis. On Indo-US ties, Secretary Antony J. Blinken has said, “The US and India are working together on so many of the most important challenges of our time and ones that are having a profound impact on the lives of our citizens. The partnership between the US and India is vital, it’s strong, and it’s increasingly productive.”

THE INDO-PACIFIC FRONT

India is a leading global power and a key US partner in the Indo-Pacific and beyond. At the inaugural Quad Leaders’ Summit in March, President Biden and Prime Minister Modi joined their Japanese and Australian counterparts in pledging to respond to the economic and health impacts of Covid-19, combat the climate crisis, and address shared challenges, including in cyber-space, critical technologies, counterterrorism, quality infrastructure investment, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and maritime security.

DETERRING ADVERSARIES AND DEFENDING INTERESTS

US-India defence cooperation is reaching new heights, including through information sharing, liaison officers, increasingly complex exercises like Malabar, and defence enabling agreements, such as the secure communications agreement COMCASA. As of 2020, the US has authorised over $20 billion in defence sales to India. Through the US-India Defense Technology and Trade Initiative, the US and India work together on co-production and co-development of defence equipment. The US and India are also closely coordinating on regional security issues, such as Afghanistan.

STRENGTHENING THE US-INDIA PARTNERSHIP

The US and India have a strong strategic partnership founded on shared values and a commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific region. The US has supported India’s emergence as a leading global power and vital partner in efforts to ensure that the Indo-Pacific is a region of peace, stability, and growing prosperity and economic inclusion. The US and India cooperate on a wide range of diplomatic, economic and security issues, including defence, non-proliferation, regional cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, shared democratic values, counterterrorism, climate change, health, energy, trade and investment, peacekeeping, the environment, education, science and technology, agriculture, space, and oceans. In 2008, the US and India signed an agreement, making India a full partner in the governance and funding of the Fulbright Program. An increase in exchanges under the agreement has allowed for the development of new and innovative programs, and India now has the largest Fulbright Scholar (faculty) program in the world. In FY 2019, this funding provided opportunities for 61 U.S. Scholars, 66 Indian Scholars, 80 US students, including 29 English Teaching Assistants, and 55 Indian students, including 13 Foreign Language Teaching Assistants. The US and India are working to expand cooperation in international organisations. The US welcomed India joining the UN Security Council in January 2021 for a two-year term. In October 2020, India hosted the third 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue, and the US looks forward to the next 2+2 later this year.

COMBATING THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC

The US has contributed more than $200 million to India’s Covid-19 relief and response efforts since the pandemic began, including more than $50 million in emergency supplies and training for more than 218,000 frontline health workers on infection prevention and control, benefitting more than 43 million Indians. Earlier this year, the US and India initiated the renewal of a memorandum of understanding to collaborate through an International Center of Excellence in Research focused on infectious diseases, including Covid-19 and other emerging threats. The US and India are partnering to strengthen the global response to Covid-19, on issues ranging from addressing infectious disease outbreaks to strengthening health systems to securing global supply chains. The US pharmaceutical companies have coordinated with Indian companies since the beginning of the pandemic. This cooperation includes voluntary licensing and technology transfer agreements to increase global manufacturing capacity for Covid-19 vaccines, therapies, and conducting clinical trials.

TACKLING CLIMATE CRISIS

The US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry travelled to India in April of this year and met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They discussed the importance of two of the world’s largest economies leading together to address the climate crisis. At the Leaders’ Summit on Climate in April, President Biden and Prime Minister Modi launched the US-India Climate and Clean Energy Agenda 2030 Partnership to strengthen cooperation on strong actions in the current decade to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement and to help each country achieve its respective climate and clean energy goals. Under the new Agenda 2030 Partnership, the US and India look forward to launching the new Climate Action and Finance Mobilisation Dialogue, led by Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry, and relaunching the Strategic Clean Energy Partnership, led by Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm, later this year. The US looks forward to furthering cooperation with India on tackling the climate crisis and rising global ambition ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, UK, in November.

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