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INDIA-US TIES ARE STRATEGIC AND NOT PERSONALITY-CENTRIC

The trajectory of the India-US strategic partnership has risen with time and the bandwidth has also widened. Both countries are at a historical point where they must reinvent themselves for a better future.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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PM Modi| Joe Biden
PM Modi| Joe Biden

The India-US bilateral cooperation is broad-based. Its vista is multisectoral—trade and investment, defence and security, education, science and technology, cyber security, high-tech, civil nuclear energy, space technology and applications, clean energy, environment, agriculture and health. The India-US Dialogue Architecture consists of a high level 2+2 dialogue and more than 50 other bilateral dialogue mechanisms. People-to-people interaction is vibrant. This partnership cuts across the political spectrum in both countries. India and the US are ‘Major Defence Partners’ with cooperation in counter-terrorism, intelligence sharing, information exchange, operational cooperation, technology, training and equipment.

Pundits have aired views on how the new Biden administration will approach the India-US relationship. As the uncertainty of who will be the next US President, plays itself out, let me put it up front. The India-US relation is strategic and will change marginally with personalities. It has been developed over two decades since the turn of the century. The early interlocutors were Jaswant Singh Minister, then External Affairs Minister, and Strobe Talbot, then Deputy Secretary of State. The trajectory of this relationship has risen with each new President. If the 21st century is all about China’s rise, the India-US strategic partnership is the ‘Enduring Global Partnership’ which can equally define this era. Leave polemics aside, focus on the realities of the relationship to get a better understanding.

ENDURING REALITIES

The India-US strategic partnership has a deep sociological phenomenon. Brilliant and hardworking first generation Indians made the US their home and contributed to its greatness while still retaining some connect with India. Their second generation Americans of Indian descent like late Kalpana Chawla, Bobby Jindal, Kamala Harris and Nikki Hailey have gone on to become astronauts, senators, state governors, ambassadors now even a Vice President (across the political divide). Reflect. One does not find second generation Americans of Chinese or Pakistani descent in the same bracket. This phenomenon is expanding with a thriving Indian community increasing in prominence in the US. There is great depth to this relationship.

In an era where autocracies are blooming, India and the US remain the two great democracies despite all their inadequacies. The oldest democracy and the largest one are kicking alive. The recent US presidential elections and the legislative cliff-hanger in Bihar showcase resilient democracies at work. Both countries have repeatedly shown that they have the capacity to discard people, who become too big for themselves, like soiled diapers. Both countries have withstood immense hardships and adversities to rise again. These are great values to cherish.

Recent events have wrought critical changes in both countries. India, badly affected by the Virus, weathered it with a plan and is recovering. Its economy has started to chug back. Most importantly, India exorcised the Ghost of 1962 by stopping Chinese aggression in its tracks in Eastern Ladakh. If reports coming in are true, China might actually step back and vacate areas forcibly occupied by it. This will be the first time in recent Chinese history. India has embarked upon “aatmanirbharta” with this new found confidence of being able to tackle China. USA has tackled the Virus haphazardly and has suffered serious casualties. Its economy has been hit seriously. The country stands deeply polarised and divided. The last time one saw the US wracked by riots was during the Vietnam War. Things are way more serious this time. A lot of internal healing to do. Tough days ahead. The gap has narrowed between the two nations. However, this is the time to show empathy, cooperation and mutual respect rather than gloating or pontification or unwanted prescriptions towards each other.

China and Pakistan—the iron brothers—are major threats to both countries. China badly wants to displace the US as the leading power and cap India’s rise. It has unleashed a multi-domain contest, often using very questionable means to achieve global domination and a Chinese World Order. China will persist with its effort and must be countered jointly. Two decades back this was foreseen. The strategic partnership was embarked upon by de-hyphenating Pakistan from the equation. Chinese role in spreading the virus and its unwarranted expansionist aggression has incensed the public in India and the US. This will solidify the partnership. Pack-istan oh Pakistan! The most dangerous country on earth can never be ignored. The twin Towers attacks; the only attack on US soil since Pearl Harbor, mounted from Afghanistan, had Pakistani roots. Osama bin Laden was in Abbottabad not on Mars. The Afghanistan peace process will be attempted to be hijacked by Pack-istan to satisfy its addiction to strategic space. Pakistan will remain a state sponsor of terrorism with its ‘Hate India’ ideology. Pack-istan kept under control is the key to US homeland security and peace in India. CPEC is the key terrain battle to tackle China. In any calculation a degraded Pakistan must be made a millstone around China’s neck. Containment of China and Pakistan under check is of critical interest to both nations and the World at large. Other threats pale in comparison. In India there is absolute clarity on this. If some in the US see it any other way, they have blinkers on.

CURRENT REALITIES

The Chinese Virus has taken a toll on the world and has affected people far and wide. The Virus will not get away from us for the next two to three years. The US with its research capability is on the verge of a vaccine breakthrough. India has the production capacity and the expertise in handling and eradication of pandemics. Add these two together and global leadership is back on track to aid people genuinely and wean them away from Chinese malignancy. It is an opportunity that leadership of both nations must utilise.

What Hitler and Nazis were to the last century, Xi Jinping and the CCP are to this century. All the talk of the benign rise of China is poppycock. China has a large military which it wants to modernise as the most powerful military on earth. Only Indian and US armed forces can stop its malignant march. Not alone, but together. As per a Rand Report ‘distance and geography work against the United States and largely counterbalance its military strengths, especially in scenarios around China’s immediate periphery. China’s ability to project power to more distant locations remains weak, and the United States continues to hold more decisive advantage at a distance from China’s coast’. Its ability to project power at a distance will improve with time, unless interfered with. Maintaining this condition should be the base case of ‘Chinese Containment’ for the Indo Pacific strategy. The Rand Report analyses a Sino US conflict framework. It has not factored in India. Examine the current scenario. Substantial PLA forces committed in Eastern Ladakh are fixed by India. Resultantly Chinese belligerence has been confined to its immediate periphery in the Pacific Seas. It could not venture afar. It has not been able to embark on any major offensive manoeuvre. The US, with forces available to it, has been able to contain PLA in Chinese periphery despite what is outlined in the Rand report. Conversely, presence of three US aircraft carriers in the Pacific has pressurised China to restrict its adventurism against India. To think that India needs rescuing by US forces in the Himalayas or that India has to sail into the south China Sea is naïve thought. Military synergy is not physical. It is mental and situational. The current situation has exposed many shortcomings of PLA. Most importantly China must prepare for a two front confrontation which is presently beyond its capability. This will throw spanners in Chinese military modernisation and future capabilities. If China has to be contained militarily, the USA and India need greater synergy in future. In any case this is not the latest discovery since the apple fell on Newton›s head. Indian and US Forces, have been going through extensive training programmes at individual, collective, national and international levels. There are many areas of defence cooperation which have evolved over time. If Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mongolia and Xinjiang are added to pose a joint asymmetric threat, then the Chinese fat will be on fire.

The US and India are large consuming economies. They need secure supply chains independent of China. Their economies can grow only if China is dampened. Economic containment of China hinges on success of decoupling of supply chains and squeezing its exports. China is acutely aware of this. It will do its utmost to break the decoupling process to ensure eternal dependence on China. Relocation of supply chains to BRI countries under debt to China might see relocated industry being blocked from being established, being owned by China in proxy / through investment or the relocation facility could be undermined by subterfuge so that end users will have to revert to China for supply. Hence relocation has to take place in a country which is safe from Chinese poaching and has the capacity cum scale to meet global requirements. Look where you want. The answer will be found only in India. Containment of China will be further effective if BRI is slowed down or reduced in scale. All this is possible only if the US and India anchor the Quad and form an economic and trade forum to set up alternative Infrastructure models and supply chains. If India and the US get together and make Quad a success, global economic recovery is automatic. There is also considerable scope for expansion of direct Indo US trade. The Indo US economic partnership possibilities are many. The economic partnership has the potential of providing global leadership through the Quad platform or otherwise. In turn the Quad platform has the bandwidth to get ASEAN, Pacific countries, IOR and large parts of the EU on board. Lots of scope and options. It will need focused action by both administrations.

The US and India are space and nuclear powers. They already have a civil nuclear agreement. They have potential to get their act together in space also. As it stands there is adequate cooperation between NASA and ISRO in space exploration. The frontier ahead is joint exploration of space based energy. All the efforts to get to Mars and Moon are ultimately about energy security for the next generation. In the same vein both countries would be natural partners in development of AI and robotics. More than anything, AI demands a scale of high volumes repetitively, in getting things right. Both countries have good linkages in the energy sector which needs to be boosted. Also there is tremendous scope to get into renewables for the future.

INTO THE FUTURE

The trajectory of the India-US strategic partnership has risen with time and the bandwidth has also widened. Both countries are at a historical point where they must reinvent themselves for a better future. As and when the leadership of the two great democracies sit to talk, there are far more important issues to focus upon for their respective people than the pinpricks which keep appearing in the media.

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

THE UNKNOWN UPRISING THAT SHOOK THE MIGHTY BRITISH EMPIRE

In its platinum jubilee year, the 1946 naval uprising is worth revisiting so as to place it in proper context and also inform many of our countrymen who may not be aware of this event.

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The week that went by, from 18 to 25 February, marked the 75th anniversary of a landmark event in Indian History—the uprising by sailors of Royal Indian Navy (RIN) in February 1946. Over the years while the uprising has been studied and documented at the academic level it has not acquired the same salience in popular lore as, for example, the 1857 war of independence or the exertions of the Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose led Indian National Army (INA). The reasons for this are manifold and are a subject of separate analysis. However, recent history indicates that while the Congress spearheaded non-violent approach was the principal vector of our freedom struggle there were many other revolutionary struggles and active movements which contributed significantly to the final outcome. In this light, in its platinum jubilee year, the naval uprising is worth revisiting so as to place it in proper context and also inform many of our countrymen who may not be aware of this event.

Sub Lt Balwant Singh with other officers. He was among the few officers discharged from service, as Lieutenant, for suspicion of being involved in the uprising.

Photo Courtesy – RAdm AR Radhakrishnan Retd

Issue of uniform kit to new recruits in 1940.Royal Indian Navy recruitment camp 1941.

RIN Job Advertisement Booklet, published in 1940.

B.C. Dutt

Originally termed as the naval mutiny, the event has, over the years, been described in many ways—revolt, rebellion, insurrection, strike, depending upon the prism of the observer. Irrespective of the characterization, there is little doubt amongst many contemporary historians that the naval uprising along with similar such (smaller scale) revolts in the Indian Army and the Air Force and the INA trials spelt the death knell of the British Empire or, at the very least, hastened its departure. When the British finally realised that the coercive elements of state could no longer be under their control it was game up for the Raj. Before we explore the many dimensions of the uprising, let us look at what happened in those tumultuous days.

BACKGROUND

The end of World War 2 bequeathed a complicated situation in India. The euphoria of winning the war was soon replaced by political uncertainty amidst hopes of early independence and economic distress, caused in large measure due to the burdens imposed by the war. Unemployment, agrarian distress and increased costs of living had made life difficult for the common man. On the global stage, the cold war had begun and the US and the USSR emerged as the new powers. War worn Britain, while still the preeminent colonial entity, was losing its sheen and reaching a point of exhaustion. On the strategic plane, India had contributed hugely to World War 2 by men and material and expectations were rife that this would be recognised by moving quickly towards some form of transfer of power. At the tactical level, the personnel of Indian Army, Air Force and Navy who had fought in foreign territories alongside troops from Britain and other countries realised that they were not inferior in any way, in skills or courage, and hence started questioning the need for them to be servile to a foreign power.

The Royal Indian Navy (RIN) was formed, in Oct 1934, essentially as a Coastal Defence force for India, while the British Royal Navy (RN) continued to be in-charge of blue water operations in the Indian Ocean Region and in furtherance of India’s ‘interests’. As war clouds hovered in the late 1930s and Britain realized that RN could no longer afford to devote forces for protection of India, the RIN was rapidly expanded to 15 times its original size from nearly 2000 personnel to more than 30,000. [On Mahatma’s birthday, remembering Indian Navy’s pre-independence journey )

While the RIN acquitted itself very well in the war especially considering the makeshift nature of many arrangements and acquisitions, it could no longer sustain at that size after the war. Hence, the force was planned to be truncated to meagre levels and personnel demobilized. At the end of the war about 20,000 men of the RIN were located in the ships and establishments in Bombay. The British Government decision to demobilise the war time recruits in the post-war period resulted in much dissatisfaction and disquiet because Sailors who had joined the Service after being promised a rosy future of a permanent well-paying job in Navy or assured career transition to civilian jobs were now suddenly being rendered unemployed. There was loss of, both, pride and economic status.

HMIS Talwar the Navy’s wireless communication establishment and training school, in Bombay, accommodated the communication branch ratings and ‘draft reserves’, many of whom were awaiting demobilisation. It was woefully overcrowded with restive ratings. Communication sailors, at that time, were more qualified and were generally better educated; this also made them more questioning of authority and less amenable to discriminatory practices.

THE PRELUDE

As a subsequent RIN Commission of Enquiry (CoE) report on the Mutiny brought out, things had been heating up at Talwar for a while. Unsatisfactory working and living conditions, bad food, indifferent leadership, rude and racist behavior by British officers and Warrant Officers, recruitment promises gone awry, a bleak future that stared many who were being released from service and the volatile political situation were all adding up to a dangerous simmer. The situation is well described by naval historian Rear Admiral Satyindra Singh, in his book ‘Under Two Ensigns’ as “a young over expanded service rapidly disintegrating in the rush to demobilise, living in a supercharged political atmosphere with its own additional feelings of disappointment, apprehension, uncertainty and un-redressed grievances”.

Three events stand out in this regard. On 01 Dec 1945, Navy Day was sought to be celebrated with great fervour emphasising post-war jubilation. It was the first time that the event was open to the public and HMIS Talwar was gearing up for the occasion. While the officials were looking forward to a successful event, a group of dissatisfied ratings, on the preceding night, silently and secretly hoisted brooms and buckets on the mast and painted subversive slogans with political overtones—‘Quit India’ and ‘Inquilab Zindabad’—on the walls and on the parade ground. As author Lt Cdr G.D. Sharma in his book Untold Story: The Naval Mutiny says, “The first signal of mutiny flashed up on the night of 1 December 1945.”

Another instance brought out by Sharma took place a month later and is further described by history blogger Ratnakar Sadasyula, “The beginnings of the Naval Ratings Mutiny were in an event that occurred on 16 January 1946 when a contingent of more than 60 ratings arrived at the Castle Barracks in Mint Road of Mumbai’s Fort Area. They were from the training ship HMIS Akbar at Thane and it was evening 4 pm. On being informed of their arrival the galley cook, took out 20 loaves of bread, casually added some water to the mutton curry as well as the dal that was from the previous day and served it. The food was so tasteless and substandard that only 17 ratings took it, the rest of them went ashore.”

The authorities took punitive measures including appointing Commander Arthur King a ‘strict no-nonsense’ officer as the new Commanding Officer of Talwar. In retrospect, this was a short-sighted move because he adopted a typical high-handed approach. Similar anti-British slogans again appeared on 01/02 Feb in anticipation of the visit of Vice Admiral JH Godfrey the Flag Officer Commanding Royal Indian Navy (FOCRIN). An early ‘success’ in identifying Leading Telegraphist Balai Chandra (BC) Dutt as the ‘mastermind’ of the painting incident and placing him under close arrest induced false optimism and gung go attitude. However, even after that the slogan writing continued.

Further, there were more troubling signs. A sailor, RK Singh, due for release anyway chose to resign instead, as an act of civil disobedience as Sailors were not allowed to resign as per service rules. He was immediately sentenced and sent to Arthur Road prison. The car of Cdr King was painted with Quit India slogans and his tyres deflated. He also received anonymous threatening calls. Unfortunately, none of these were seem as warning signs.

The more proximate reason occurred on the morning of 06 February 1946, when King entered one of the barracks and abused the communication ratings not on duty as ‘sons ofbitches, Junglees and Coolies’ perceiving that they had not paid attention to his arrival. As a protest against his language, fourteen ratings made individual complaints to Lt Commander Shaw, the Executive Officer. Shaw forwarded the complaints to King and apprised him of the gravity of the situation. However, King deferred the matter until 16 February and then told the ratings that they were making false complaints against the Commanding Officer. He gave them twenty-four hours to rethink. As would be obvious, this was a bizarre situation where the accused was adjudicating on his case. Further, his stubborn attitude matched by the determination of the ratings to seek justice took the situation to a boiling point. On the same day Dutt was informed about the authorities’ decision to demote and discharge him from Service.

THE REVOLT

On 18 February 1946, the ratings found the breakfast served was not properly cooked and inadequate. BC Dutt who, many years later, authored a book ‘Mutiny of the Innocents’ says: “As a protest, the ratings walked out of the mess hall. Someone shouted the slogan: No Food, No Work.” Satyindra Singh brings out that “the mutiny originated on the then HMIS Talwar and then spread to various naval ships and establishments all over the country and even beyond Indian shores. Only a few remained unaffected”.

Author Pramod Kapoor who is writing a book on the Uprising describes it thus “Just before dawn on February 18th, 1946, ratings on HMIS Talwar struck work, refused to eat and shouted slogans of ‘Quit India’, ‘Down with the British White Rats’, ‘Jai Hind’ and relayed signals to all within radio range informing them of the strike. The ratings were all young men, barely 17 to 24 years old, but they had lit the spark for what could be termed the Mutiny of 1946. For most people, the Indian mutiny refers to the one that took place in 1857 against the British East India Company, and posed a threat to the British Crown’s rule over India. The Naval Mutiny of 1946 was a courageous and audacious revolt by patriotic young men that spread like wildfire among the ship and shore establishments controlled by the RIN, spreading as far as Aden and Indonesia, and posed a major threat to the British rule because of its timing and circumstance”.

While the political aspects can be debated there is no doubt that the revolt spread far and wide and at its height involved 78 ships, 20 shore establishments and 20,000 ratings. While Talwar was the nerve centre it spread across Mumbai, Karachi, Visakhapatnam, Madras, Kochi, Jamnagar, Kolkota and Bahrein where other units of the RIN were located. In spontaneous reaction, sailors at these places stopped work, went on hunger strike or resorted to other forms of agitation. In Mumbai, the naval dockyard, ships and Castle Barracks (today’s INS Angre) were enveloped in the revolt. Officers, mostly British, were sent out of the ships and the Union Jack and Naval Ensign were hauled down and replaced with flags of the political parties of the day. Ships were taken over by ratings and in some cases the main guns trained at the Gateway of India, Taj Mahal hotel and the Yacht Club adjacent to it. While this was more to deter any firing at them, the significance of pointing weapons on what were seen as colonial symbols was not lost on the establishment and the general populace. As Talwar was the Communications training school the ratings used wireless telegraphy and codes to communicate among themselves and to spread the message across all naval echelons. The ratings in an act of chutzpah also took over the Butcher Island which served as the ammunition depot for the British.

The immediate cause of the ‘mutiny’ in other ships and establishments were sympathy with Talwar, supportive (or inflammatory depending on the perspective) articles in the press and similar feelings of disenchantment with the authorities. On 19 February 1946, around 2000 ratings from various establishments and ships in Mumbai came down on the breakwater to carry out ‘a sit down strike’. Singh stresses through that “with rare exceptions, the behavior of the mutineers towards their officers was courteous with the usual marks of respect”.

The ‘mutiny’ was also accompanied by civil unrest in many places. The reports on radio and in newspapers spread like fire and considerable sympathy was shown towards the demands of the ratings. In Mumbai, a meeting was held in Azad Maidan by the ‘mutineers’ and they marched in processions shouting anti-British slogans. As the enquiry report states “The ratings paraded the streets… although their behaviour in general was rowdyish, the mutiny was still non-violent.” Mumbai also saw mass protests by citizens coming out in support of the ratings. Civilian port and dockyard workers, mill hands, railway workers, student unions joined in the protest. The public transport system came to a halt, trains were burnt, roadblocks were erected and commercial establishments were shut down. A general strike in support of the revolt took place in Bombay on 22 February and in Karachi on both 22 and 23 February. The revolt came to receive widespread support from public even for the short period that it lasted, not only in Bombay and Karachi, but also in Calcutta, Ahmadabad, Madras, Trichinopoly, Madurai, Kanpur and several places in Assam.

The ratings formed a Naval Central Strike Committee (NCSC); MS Khan, Leading Telegraphist and Madan Singh, Petty Officer Telegraphist, were elected as the President and Vice-President respectively. On 19 February, a meeting was held at Talwar between Flag Officer Bombay Rear Admiral AR Rattray, RIN officials and representatives of the NCSC. The Committee demands included aspects such as non-victimisation of strikers, release of R.K. Singh, speedy demobilisation and reasonable peace time employment, immediate disciplinary action against Commander King, improvement in standards of food, scales of pay and other aspects of work environment. Interestingly, the demands also included immediate release of political and INA leaders, immediate and impartial enquiry into the firing on the public all over India and immediate withdrawal of Indian troops from Indonesia and Middle East. The last part clearly indicated the political nature of the protests.

As may be expected the establishment having been taken by surprised reacted with full fury. The ratings were warned to surrender failing which threat of use of force was openly made. The Government summoned Royal Navy ships from the East Indies Fleet at Trincomalee, RN ships in harbour were asked to be at standby for actions against RIN ships commandeered by mutineers, British Army troops were called in after the Indians refused to fire, Tanks and Artillery were requisitioned for support if needed and the Air Force bombers made low passes over naval dockyards in a show of strength. Unfortunately, pitched battles took place between the revolting ratings and their antagonists in the Castle Barracks of Mumbai where the Army troops laid a siege of sorts, surrounding the Castle and cutting off water and electricity while the ratings responded by sniping at them from the parapets, and in Karachi where an exchange of gunfire took place between ratings on HMIS Hindustan and Army troops. Mumbai witnessed 2 deaths and 6 personnel injured while Karachi saw 8 deaths and 40 injured. 33 personnel could not be accounted for and while presumed deserted by the authorities then may also have figured on the casualty list. Also, many sailors in various parts of the country were arrested and put in custody during the crisis.

In Bombay, the mass civil unrest and certain acts of arson by extreme elements resulted in curfew being imposed and police/military firing on unruly mobs. A panicky establishment reacting in knee jerk manner caused considerable blood to be spilled as close to 400 people were killed and nearly 1,500 injured. As Sharma eloquently brings out, “It must be said to the credit of the striking ratings that it required the bravest of the Braveheart to face the British might in this unequal contest. The ratings were now facing military might similar to the 1857 mutiny against England.”

While generating popular support, the uprising did not, however, garner the backing of the main political parties. The movement was leaderless and rudderless unlike, for example, the INA where the charismatic leadership of Netaji provided the glue and organisational coherence. Further, the naval uprising was seen as a one-off episode and not continuation of a political movement. This deprived it of much legitimacy. Some experts also argue that the Congress and the Muslim League having moved into pole positions with regard to transfer of power did not wish to cede that space to anyone or detract from that trajectory.

The happenings in Bombay and elsewhere were seen as acts of indiscipline and defiance of the authority by most political leaders of significance such as Mahatma Gandhi, Sardar Patel and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. While Pandit Nehru was more sympathetic, he too did not wish to upset the non-violent nature of the freedom struggle. As historian Srinath Raghavan says, “The leaders realised that any mass uprising would inevitably carry the risk of not being amenable to centralized direction and control. Besides, now that independence and power were in sight, they were eager not to encourage indiscipline in the armed forces”. On 22 February Sardar Patel sent a message saying, “The strikers should lay down all arms and should go through the formality of surrender, and the Congress would do its level best to see that there is no victimisation and the legitimate demands of naval ratings are met as soon as possible.” This advice was eventually accepted.

The revolt was called off following a meeting between M.S. Khan and Vallabhbhai Patel. Patel issued a statement calling on the strikers to end their action, which was later echoed by Mohammed Ali Jinnah on behalf of the Muslim League. However, the agitations, mass strikes, demonstrations and support for the revolt continued for several days even after it had been called off. The surrender statement was remarkable for its defiant tone. It stated: ‘Our strike has been a historic event in the life of the nation. For the first time, the blood of the men in the services and the people flowed together in a common cause. We in the services will never forget this. We also know that you, our brothers and sisters, will not forget. Jai Hind.’

Part 1 of the two-part series.

The authors are associated with the Naval History Project. Views expressed here are personal and do not reflect those of the Indian Navy or the Government of India.

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Defence

24TH INDIA-USA EXECUTIVE STEERING GROUP MEETING IN DELHI

Ashish Singh

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The 24th edition of the India-USA Executive Steering Group (ESG) meeting was held at New Delhi from 22 to 24 February. The meeting was attended by a 12-member delegation from the US Army in person and virtually by 40 officers from different locations from the US. Major General Daniel McDaniel, Deputy Commanding General, US Army Pacific (USARPAC) was the Head of delegation from the US side. Indian Army delegation comprised of 37 officers. 

The forum is an Army to Army engagement that meets every year alternately in India and the US to discuss Army to Army cooperation.

A number of contemporary issues of mutual interests where discussed with an aim to enhance the engagements in diverse fields. For the first time the meeting was held both in person and through virtual mode owing to restrictions of Covid-19.

Relevant issues of defence cooperation and common subjects of Interest where discussed between both sides during the meet.

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Defence

Amid India-Pak ceasefire, a look at cross-border firings & terrorist attacks

Ashish Singh

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Jammu and Kashmir is affected by terrorism sponsored and supported from across the border for the last three decades.

The ceasefire violations by Pakistan are reported from the International Border(IB)/ Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu and Kashmir only.

India has adopted a policy of zero tolerance towards terrorism. Immediate and effective retaliation is undertaken by the security forces in cases of ceasefire violations/ cross border firings. There has been a substantial decline in the terrorist attacks over the last three years, due to a slew of pre-emptive measures undertaken by the Army, paramilitary and the government.

The details of the incidents of ceasefire violations, terrorist attacks, civilians and security force personnel killed/injured in ceasefire violations and terrorist attacks along with the number of terrorists killed in counter attacks during each of the last three years in Jammu and Kashmir are as under:

 The last DG level meeting of BSF and Pakistan Rangers was held from 8-10 November, 2017 at New Delhi. During this meeting, the issue of cross border firing was discussed, in which it was agreed upon by both sides to ensure that no such firing takes place. In case of any firing, the other side must exercise maximum restrain and immediate contact through all available means of communication be established to avoid further escalation. Flag meetings are also held on ground, on need basis, between Commanders of different level.

No assessment is made to ascertain the losses to the exchequer due to such attacks. However, compensation is provided to the civilians, security force personnel, etc. for the losses due to such attacks.

The government has been consistently raising the issue of cross border terrorism and has placed high emphasis on international cooperation in combating the menace of terrorism including in bilateral, regional and international fora. Some of the steps taken by the Government to curb terrorist activities are:

Kinetic operations: actively identifying the terrorists and their tactical supporters, seeking them through operations like cordon and search giving proper response if they resort to violence while being arrested etc.

Preventive operations: actively identifying the strategic supporters of terrorism and initiating investigations to remove the camouflaging layers and exposing their mechanisms of aiding and abetting terrorism such as funding, recruiting etc.

Night patrolling has been intensified and nakas have been set up on all likely infiltration routes. The vehicles coming from borders areas are being thoroughly checked.

Coordination meetings are being regularly conducted and high-alertness is being maintained by all the forces deployed in the area.

Sharing of Intelligence inputs on real time basis among all Security forces operating in J&K. 

Further to expose Pakistan’s connection with various terrorist outfits in the international arena, the Government of India is also using the various evidence collected during investigations of terror attacks for inclusion in bilateral and multilateral discussions.

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Defence

MULTIPLE MILITARY DOMAIN ENGAGEMENTS BETWEEN INDIA AND BANGLADESH

Ashish Singh

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Air Chief Marshal R.K.S. Bhadauria, Chief of the Air Staff (CAS), Indian Air Force (IAF) embarked on an official goodwill visit to Bangladesh earlier this week on an invitation from Air Chief Marshal Masihuzzaman Serniabat, Chief of Air Staff, Bangladesh Air Force (BAF). Chief of Air Staff Bangladesh recently represented his country at the Chiefs’ of Air Staff Conclave 21 at Air Force Station Yelahanka where he led a delegation to Aero India 2021 earlier this month at Bengaluru.

During the course of the four-day visit, the CAS and delegation are scheduled to interact with senior dignitaries and visit key operational bases of BAF. They will discuss the progress made in areas of shared interests and explore avenues to further mutual military cooperation. The visit of the CAS to Bangladesh comes at a significant period for both Bangladesh and Indian Armed Forces as the two celebrate 50 years of the 1971 war. It will enhance the existing professional ties and bonds of friendship between the two Air Forces.

BANGLADESH NAVY SHIP VISITS WESTERN NAVAL COMMAND HQ

Bangladesh Navy Ship (BNS) Prottoy was on a two day visit to Mumbai last week. The ship commanded by Captain Ahamed Amin Abdullah with a crew of 137 personnel docked at Mumbai Port Trust.

Due to Covid-19 imposed restrictions, routine courtesy call-ons, social get togethers, exchange visits and other sports fixtures between the visitors and host naval personnel were avoided. This visit of BNS Prottoy to Mumbai is significant in the backdrop that the two countries celebrated 50 years of Bangladesh independence recently. To commemorate the occasion, for the first time, a marching contingent and military band from Bangladesh participated in India’s Republic Day Parade. Since the formation of Bangladesh, both India and Bangladesh have come a long way in nurturing strategic and defence relationships and these bonds are gradually growing in mutual trust and confidence.

ARTISTS COME TOGETHER TO COMMEMORATE WIN

Continuing the commemorative events as part of “Swarnim Vijay Varsh” this year, an “Art Carnival” based on theme “1971: Retrospective Through an Artist Eye” was organised at Fort William, Kolkata, last week. The event was conceptualised as a live workshop wherein renowned artists from India and Bangladesh displayed their creativity on canvas.

Participation of renowned artists from Bangladesh and India added colour to the marquee event which showcased the contribution, valour and sacrifices of armed forces and common people from both sides including the valiant “Mukti Jodhas” towards birth of Bangladesh. The event also witnessed participation from the students of Government College of Arts and Crafts, Kolkata who got an opportunity to work alongside veteran artists while young minds including the NCC cadets and school children were exposed to new vistas.

     The event organised in the lawns of “Vatika” near Vijay Smarak of Fort William was inaugurated by Army Commander, Eastern Command. The two day event which was open to all art enthusiasts witnessed a stream of visitors mesmerised by exceptional art work. During the closing ceremony, Chief Guest Isha Mohammad, former Principal of Government Art College, Kolkata, and President of Asiatic Society spoke about the role people of Bengal and armed forces leading to the war. He also recalled various incidents of the Liberation War 1971 and highlighted a moving instance when Sikh soldiers of Indian Army took off their turbans to cover the mutilated bodies of young children and women

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Defence

INTERVENTION IS NOW ALSO USED FOR COMMON GOOD: JAISHANKAR

Effectiveness, success and legitimacy key to intervention, says strategic affairs expert C. Raja Mohan.

Ashish Singh

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Dr C. Raja Mohan, director, Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore, delivered the 2021 edition of The K. Subrahmanyam Memorial Lecture on the topic of ‘When to Intervene: Using Force Beyond Borders’ on Thursday. The lecture was organised by the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA) as a tribute to the memory of a distinguished scholar and one of India’s foremost strategic thinkers, K. Subrahmanyam, who also long served as the Institute’s Director in its formative years. Dr S. Jaishankar, Minister for External Affairs, and the son of K. Subrahmanyam, delivered the Vote of Thanks.

In his Welcome Address, Director General, MP-IDSA, Ambassador Sujan R. Chinoy, highlighted the contributions of Subrahmanyam to the Indian strategic discourse and described him as a man who stood for robust national security structures and postures. Subrahmanyam was one of the first to articulate the notion of “guns and butter” as against “guns versus butter, observed Amb Chinoy. Subrahmanyam was an early advocate of defence reforms, the nuclear option, improved intelligence inputs, and the dexterous engagement of great powers. His advocacy of the nuclear deal with the US also stands out.

In his Lecture, Dr C. Raja Mohan also paid rich homage to Subrahmanyam, describing him as the principal voice that explained the world to India and vice-versa. One of his biggest contributions to the strategic discourse was to free the debate in India from ideological shackles, he observed.

Speaking about the complexities faced by India on the use of force beyond borders, and about carefully managing the unavoidable and dynamic interaction between the domestic political processes of India and other countries, Dr Raja Mohan said that effectiveness, success and legitimacy should all be considered in analysing interventions. India’s decision to use force beyond borders should be based on its judgment of the situation, as it cannot afford to either stand apart, or intervene in every domestic conflict in the neighbourhood, he added. 

Drawing a parallel between India’s traditional and current foreign policy stance, Dr. Raja Mohan said that the country now seems to have moved away from the ‘presumed centrality of non-intervention in foreign policy’ and out of the collective amnesia about the Indian role in the two World wars which the current government has brought to the fore.

Offering the Vote of Thanks, Dr S. Jaishankar recalled many personal episodes in his late father’s life and the impact that his father’s strategic thought had on an entire generation of scholars and practitioners including Dr Raja Mohan and himself.

He added that the use of force abroad may no longer be considered a completely defensive move. Intervention is now also used for the common good, such as humanitarian and disaster relief operations or the development of maritime domain awareness.

Dwelling further on his father, Jaishankar noted that Subrahmanyam was tempered by experience, learnt from the intersection of his thoughts with politics, and gradually evolved with the times. Over the years, his interest expanded beyond the use of narrow military force towards issues such as knowledge economy, supply chains, dependency, leveraging trade, etc. Subrahmanyam also had the opportunity to apply all his rich knowledge and experience during his chairmanship of the Kargil Review Committee and the National Security Advisory Board.

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Defence

ASSAM RIFLES FELICITATES COVID-19 WARRIORS

Ashish Singh

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The Covid warriors worked hand in hand in spreading the awareness and fighting the deadly pandemic. These warriors have worked selflessly to save the humanity. With nationwide rollout of the Covid-19 vaccination drive, these warriors are reaching out to all sections of the society to spread the message about vaccination and its effects.

In its efforts to reach out to the society along with these warriors, 44 Assam Rifles under the aegis of 22 Sect Assam Rifles (AR)/ Inspector General Assam Rifles (IGAR)-EAST in a unique way felicitated these Covid warriors at Tamenglong. Since 16 January Covid-19 vaccination drive has been launched in the state of Manipur. Its prerequisite for the doctors, nursing and other medical staff to be thoroughly aware of the procedures and peculiarities of this vaccination drive. On the sidelines of this function the District Health Society, Tamenglong organised a training session for the medical staff of 44 Assam Rifles in Tamenglong.

The soldiers, being front line workers, are required to be vaccinated timely so that they can discharge their duty well without any risk to their health as well as the without endangering the lives of local populace, especially children and the elders of the society. The interactive and practice session conducted by Dr Sunil Kamei, DIO Tamenglong and his team of four doctors enabled the para medical staff of the unit to conduct vaccination at the unit hospital as well as at the remote outposts.

The CMO and medical team of 44 Assam Rifles felt much more confident in handling and carrying out of vaccination drive for the unit in times to come. Speaking on this occasion the Commandant 44 Assam Rifles thanked Dr Chambo Gonmei, CMO Tamenglong and his medical team for the enriching session and assured them to work hand in hand with them to battle the deadly pandemic till the time it is not fully eradicated from society. He also highlighted various awareness campaigns being undertaken by unit troops in various parts of the district. The troops through posters, banners, plays, interactive sessions, consultive meetings and medical camps are engaged in awareness against Covid-19.

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