INDIA’S POWER CAN SEE A SEA CHANGE IF IT DOMINATES THE SEAS - The Daily Guardian
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INDIA’S POWER CAN SEE A SEA CHANGE IF IT DOMINATES THE SEAS

If we have to grow as a regional or global power, we must dominate the seas. We can do that by playing the maritime policeman’s role and by denying access to those inimical to us in our seas of interest—Bay of Bengal, Arabian Sea and part of Indian Ocean which extends from the Persian Gulf to the Malacca Straits.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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Views on Indian Strategy: Many feel that India’s Military doctrine is outdated, orthodox and too continentally oriented and neglects the maritime domain. To quote some views. One researcher from Carnegie India feels that The Indian Army’s prevailing doctrine leaves the military with two main choices: do nothing or risk wars it cannot win. The Indian Army needs to rethink its use of force to meet today’s new challenges. Ah ha! Are there any challenges beyond China and Pakistan for India? Another researcher from JNU says India’s obsession with continental strategies has yielded unflattering results — no secure borders or deterrence stability. Therefore, it is high time New Delhi shifted its almost exclusive focus from the continental space to the maritime space, stitching together a maritime grand strategy.  Wow! What is this maritime grand strategy to secure our land borders?  Yet another feels that India’s strategic challenges in the near future will be naval, not continental. Really? The PLA is sitting on our head! He goes on to say that traditionally, the Indian Navy has been the neglected branch of the armed forces. Big words.

Perspectives on Wars and Strategies: Let us put strategy and war fighting in perspective. The strategic and military record of the USA and China are unflattering. Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq are examples of US losses despite being the greatest military on earth. China. Ah China! The superpower aspirants are all set to have the greatest military. Its only notable military victory since 1962, has been sinking a Vietnamese fishing boat in South China Sea.  On the other hand, the orthodox, outdated and poorly equipped Indian Armed Forces, have been on the winning side of all conflicts barring 1962. Pakistan has been defeated through 1947, 1965, 1971 and Kargil at a time and place of its choosing. China has been tapped hard on the beak in 1967, Doklam and Eastern Ladakh. The much flaunted PLA strength is deficit on ground. Chinese multi domain war endeavours have  been countered more than adequately. What more does a country require from its Armed Forces or its polity? Surely it must do something with strategy. Not convinced? Let us discuss further.

Threats India Faces: Every country organises its Armed Forces based on perceived threats. Despite being in an era of multidomain wars, let us recapitulate our threats simplistically. Our land borders of nearly 3500 km with China and over 3000 km with Pakistan are largely disputed and partly occupied illegally. Further, China covets Eastern Ladakh and Arunachal Pradesh and Pakistan wants Kashmir. Both are nuclear nations. We have had to defend ourselves repeatedly against their aggression and assertion. They constantly pose individual and collusive threats – conventional and unconventional. These threats come directly and indirectly through other countries and are increasing by the day. Our border areas and states remain/kept unstable. Any weakening on land borders means high likelihood of loss of territorial integrity of the nation and an unacceptable threat to our people. Even a loss of a few km of frigid uninhabited land on Pangong Tso is not acceptable to the nation. Further, the LAC threatens to present us with a LOC situation. How do we ignore that hard reality? Both adversaries possess nuclear arsenals which can target the entire Indian landmass. The strategic threat is buttressed by space based assets. If we did not have a second strike capability, then their first strike is a Damocles  sword over our heads. Asymmetric  threats to India have been multiple, manifold, constant and lethal – cyber-attacks, three warfare strategy, terrorism, digital and info domination, influence ops, cartographic aggression, economic dependency, political subversion and diplomatic hounding. Asymmetry is also built through the ‘String of Pearls’ in our neighbourhood. The air threat is not a stand-alone threat but accompanies a continental, maritime or a strategic threat. The  maritime threat is essentially fourfold. Threat to our mainland, island territories, SLOCs and offshore assets. Of these, our SLOCs can be interfered with to a limited extent and there is some threat to our island territories. Overall the continental land based threat from Pakistan and China is of highest priority  to our national integrity and security.  Hence India must pay more attention to its continental domain. However it does not mean the maritime domain needs to be neglected.

Thoughts on Maritime Domain: If India is to grow as a regional or global power, we must dominate the seas. On that there is no doubt. We can do that by playing the maritime policeman’s role and by denying access to those inimical to us in our seas of interest – Bay of Bengal,  Arabian Sea and part of Indian Ocean which extends from the Persian Gulf to the Malacca Straits. If we can do that, we are largely secure. To a large extent we can. In fact beyond that , we are prepared to even defend our assets since 2012 as per our then CNS. The problem arises when we think beyond this. We are then leaving the security of the firm base of the Indian mainland  and the seas we are familiar with to do the ‘Enter the Dragon’ act in the South China Sea. The logic of sticking our neck out into the South China Sea to fight someone else’s battles without adequate resources or a base needs a visit to a psychiatrist. Do not forget that more than half the ASEAN is in China’s pocket and they are very  sensitive to ASEAN centrality. Why would anyone allow us to operate in disputed seas to antagonise China? Even if we did so, what would we achieve with our meagre resources that the USA with its three carrier groups has not been able to achieve? At best we may carry out FONOPs, like the USA does. However, when FONOPs have not deterred China from building and manning islands in the South China Sea, why will it deter China from being aggressive on the LAC? Also, in the present situation,  China has continued to be aggressive across the LAC  despite being engaged in the South China Sea by the USA. In fact it is even planning to attack Taiwan.

Maritime Strategy Outline: So what should our maritime strategy be? India should be the dominant maritime power in its security environment from the Persian Gulf to the Malacca Straits. There is no doubt in that. Are we in that league? Partly. However we can definitely do better. Does China threaten us in the IOR?  Not yet. However there is a Sino-Indian competition for dominance of the IOR. China wants to get into the IOR. It  does not have the reach as yet. Despite everything, the bulk of Chinese Navy has not left the South China Sea, East China Sea or Yellow Sea. It has remained within the safety envelope of the Chinese main land. Are the Chinese preparing to enter the IOR. Oh sure.  If they want to be a world power they have to. So we should do something which makes the IOR our fortress. That has two components. One. We  need to get hold of our neighbourhood – Bangladesh, Myanmar, Srilanka, and Maldives. We are slipping there badly.  We need to do more there to deny PLAN from developing bases in these countries. Two. Indian Navy must be enabled to deny the IOR to China or any other adversary when needed. That means capability building. Let us discuss that.

Choices: We have three choices. Increase our surface fleet including a third aircraft carrier. Increase our sub surface fleet. Strengthen our Island territories. In any option, increasing our maritime domain awareness is a given. Any sensible person will opt for a balanced option and I will agree with him. There is a lot of discussion about the third aircraft carrier. As an Indian I would love to have that. However its practicability needs to be thought through. After all it is not a matter of just building a ship but also equipping it. When we do not have enough aircraft for the IAF where will we get them for the third aircraft carrier? I wonder if we can get hold of enough aircraft for even the two aircraft carriers we are shortly going to have. Also,  I wonder if we have fully strengthened our Island territories. Well-developed islands in the IOR can be punitive pivots around which the IN, IAF and IA  can manoeuvre. Further has enough discussion and analysis been carried out to take a call on the right mix between surface and subsurface combatants? I think it needs a joint thought and not a single service thought. The DMA has to pitch in. A national consensus and clarity must emerge with due diligence and thought.

A Continental Thought: There is an old fashioned continental thought of mine for consideration by vastly modern maritime enthusiasts. Our orthodox Army has by now tied down at least four to six PLA divisions with a whole lot of other combat power in Eastern Ladakh. Add other PLA forces which are on alert in the Central and Eastern Sectors. Add Chinese obsession with Taiwan. Add other border requirements. Add requirements to keep the CCP in power. Add the new rubric of QUAD. Suddenly one will find that Chinese force dynamics will change. Factor in the one child policy, conscription, inexperience and untested weapons. My guess is that PLA has been shorted.  Mark my words. Do  an old fashioned  appreciation called ‘Troops to Task’. It will emerge that PLAN has a very long way to go before it becomes expeditionary. A correct joint assessment is on the cards. If the LAC degenerates into a LOC situation, the Chinese apple cart will be fully upset. Whether they like it or not, they will start looking at their own continental vs maritime theories afresh. Unless of course they want to lose Tibet and Xinjiang through asymmetry by sailing into the IOR.

Economic Impact: A major factor in all prescriptions is economic clout. We can think of achieving maritime glory when we have pockets deep enough. When we get to being a 5 Tn USD economy we can start dreaming to look over the horizon. Presently, our condition permits us only to consolidate. Modernisation in contracting budgets will be a difficult option. Force expansion in such conditions is La La land. Very importantly we must maintain balance. Fiscal and Physical. We need to be strong enough to deter China and Pakistan from undertaking any further adventures. That kind of deterrence comes through sustained progress in all five main domains – continental, areal, maritime, strategic and asymmetric. We also need to invest more in our joint ISR capabilities on a national scale. The other way of deterring our adversaries is to get into an alliance or an arrangement like the QUAD to contain China in the Indo Pacific construct. Here exercises like Malabar have great value to develop operational synergy.  Even in this scenario we must take a holistic view. We can never forget that there is an ‘Indo’ part of the Indo Pacific. I have highlighted this amply in my previous article @   https://www.gunnersshot.com/2020/10/quad-evolving-fast-by-lt-gen-p-r.html

Indian Interests and Strategy: At the end of the day we need to cater for Indian interests through Indian strategies in response to Indian threats under Indian conditions obtaining on ground. We have to think through them. Our weakness lies in the inability of our Defence and Security system to work seamlessly, lacking joint structures, inter-ministerial  gaps, inability to equip our armed forces and lack of a strategic political culture. We need to strengthen those within democratic norms without aping autocracies or falling prey to wishful thinking. We need a balanced approach which is best for India.     

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

Assam Rifles honours Covid-19 warriors on Sammaan Diwas

Ashish Singh

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New Delhi: The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown brought lives to a standstill and most of us enjoyed the privilege of staying safe at home. But the medical community including doctors, nurses and the medical staff fought this disease on the frontline, putting their own lives at risk. The healthcare professionals had cut themselves off from their families and loved ones. Several doctors even went to the extent of sacrificing their own lives in the line of duty. As the first immunisation drive started for 44 Assam Rifles under the aegis of 22 Sector Assam Rifles (AR)/ Inspector General Assam Rifles (IGAR)- East, the battalion took the opportunity to extend gratitude to all the healthcare professionals for their service by organising ‘Sammaan Diwas’ in Tamenglong HQ.

The Commandant felicitated the Covid-19 warriors stating that the sacrifices they have made every day for the safety and welfare of humanity is priceless and deserves our lifelong gratitude. The Commandant stated that although vaccination is voluntary and is being provided by govt free of cost, yet it is advisable to receive the complete schedule of Covid-19 vaccine for protecting one- self about this disease and also to limit the spread of this disease to other close contacts including family members, friends, relatives and co-workers. The Covid vaccination drive is a proud moment for us Indians and is a great milestone in India’s scientific research capability.

The Indian scientists and innovators have come forward to serve the cause for humanity. This development is an acceleration on the road to a healthier and Covid-free society. He urged the local public to come forward voluntarily to get vaccinated.

A local haat was displayed at the event showing different colours of the northeast through a range of handicrafts made of wood, bamboo and metals. These crafts, made by the villagers of Tamenglong, are part of 44 Assam Rifles’ initiative for ‘Vocal to Local ‘ to promote the crafts of the Northeast to the rest of India and provide a push to the local economy.

Due to nationwide lockdown in 2020 many local youth lost their jobs and are now struggling for their livelihood. The Northeast has earned appreciation from all across the nation for its rich culture, heritage and art. Since time immemorial craftsmanship and artistry have been a source of livelihood in rural areas.  These artisans were given tremendous respect admiration and appreciation. Lack of opportunities and demand have overshadowed the excellence, creativity and hard work of these rural artisans and their traditional artistry.

To further strengthen the Vocal for Local and Make in India initiatives, 44 Assam Rifles is helping rural artisans and craftsmen by providing skills, employment, opportunities, offering facilities to sell their products in newer markets. The unit is showcasing these local handicrafts in all its public outreach programmes to seek prospective buyers.

The Commandant also thanked Dr Pinky Sarangthem, Rapid Response Team WHO, Dr Chambo Gonmei, CMO Tamenglong & his medical team from the Office of the District Health Society, Tamenglong and the CMO, doctors and other medical staff of the battalion for their immense selfless contribution to society.

In the address to the troops and public at the event, Dr Pinky Sarangthem, RRT WHO and Dr Chambo Gonmei, CMO Tamenglong highlighted the effectiveness of the vaccine stating that the post vaccination symptoms are minimal and temporary but at the same time cautioned that drinking and smoking will interfere with the production of antibodies in the body after the vaccination has been carried out.

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Defence

Coast Guard averts major narcotics transshipment in Lakshadweep sea

Ashish Singh

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New Delhi: Indian Coast Guard has once again been successful in averting a major drug transshipment via sea route in the Lakshadweep Sea. Indian Coast Guard ships and aircraft while on patrol off the Lakshadweep islands observed suspicious movements of three Sri Lankan fishing boats. The boats were continuously monitored by the CG units and were subsequently intercepted and checked at the opportune moment.

Initial investigation revealed that Sri Lankan Fishing Boat (SLFB) Akarsha Duwa was at sea for longer duration of over a fortnight. Inconsistent information received and abnormal behaviour of crew further raised the suspicion level. As the crew were giving misleading statements, they were interrogated tactfully upon which the crew admitted having been involved in smuggling of narcotics/contraband. While en-route, the crew noticed presence of Indian Coast Guard ships and aircraft in the area. With the fear of getting apprehended, the crew decided to flee the area.

However, on realising that fleeing from ICG ships was impossible, they dropped five bags of contraband weighing around 260 kg of narcotics in water. The value of these narcotics in international market is approximately Rs. 2100 Cr. In a similar operation in Nov 2020, Indian Coast Guard had apprehended Sri Lankan fishing boat ‘Shenaya Duwa’ off Kanyakumari, carrying narcotics worth value approximately Rs. 1000 Cr in the International market.

Due to rough sea conditions off Minicoy Islands, the boats were brought to Vizhinjam near Thiruvananthapuram on 7 March for further interrogation by the concerned security agencies. Post rummaging and joint investigation at Vizhinjam, SLFB Akarsha Duwa alongwith 06 Sri Lankan crew was detained for final investigation. Two other Sri Lankan boats with crew were released for handing over to Sri Lankan authorities for further investigation due to considerable quantity of fish stock onboard.

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Defence

In a first, Indian Naval Ships to visit Bangladesh’s historic port city

Ashish Singh

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New Delhi: Indian Naval Ships Sumedha, an indigenously build Offshore Patrol vessel and Kulish, an indigenously built guided missile corvette, are scheduled to make a port call at the historic port town of Mongla in Bangladesh from 8th to 10th March to commemorate the ongoing Swarnim Vijay Varsh and reiterating the historic Indo-Bangladeshi friendship.

This is the first time that any Indian Naval Ship is visiting the port of Mongla in Bangladesh and the visit is aimed at paying homage to the Bangladeshi and Indian combatants and citizens who laid down their lives during the Liberation War of 1971, and reiterate India’s firm resolve and commitment to maintain peace, stability and good order in the region, in line with SAGAR (Security and Growth for all in the Region), as articulated by the Prime Minister. On behalf of the Chief of Naval Staff, the Commanding Officers of the ships will call on the senior Bangladesh Navy hierarchy to reaffirm Indian Navy’s solidarity and partnership with the Bangladesh Navy.

Following all Covid-19 protocols, the ships’ crew will also participate in professional and cultural exchanges as well as friendly sports fixtures with their counterparts in the Bangladesh Navy, further enhancing synergy between the two navies.

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Defence

INDIAN ARMY CELEBRATES WOMEN’S DAY AT MULTIPLE CORPS

Ashish Singh

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New Delhi: Command Hospital, Northern Command, Udhampur celebrated International Women’s Day 2021 on Monday highlighting the contributions and personal sacrifices made by lady corona warriors of Command Hospital (Northern Command) during the recent Covid pandemic. The theme of the event was “Corona Ke Vaar Pe Naari Shakti Ka Prahaar!”

Despite long working hours they put their foot forward to save innumerable lives. Experiences of these women of substance were shared with the audience. Sudha Mohan, Regional Vice President AWWA (Northern Command) was the Chief Guest and she felicitated the brave women on this occasion. Sudha Mohan also lauded the efforts of the uniformed lady health care workers during the pandemic. Speaking on the occasion, the Commandant of the Command Hospital, Northern Command, Maj Gen A.K. Jindal highlighted the compassion with which the women corona warriors worked selflessly during the fight against corona & thanked them for extreme dedication and their tireless work for the community.

Among the first Service hospitals to initiate RT-PCR testing, the Command Hospital, Northern Command at Udhampur was the first service hospital to conduct more than one lakh Covid tests. During the Covid pandemic the Command Hospital, proactively conceptualised and operationalised capacity building for Covid-19 patient care & extended full support to the Civil Administration in the UT of Jammu and Kashmir.  

VIRTUAL VEER NARI MEET

As part of annual the ‘Atoot Bandhan’ initiative, Machhal Rashtriya Rifles Battalion, Kupwara organises felicitation program for the Veer Naris every year. However, this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic and various advisories on the subject, it was not prudent to organise such a large gathering. Therefore, this year the event was conducted virtually in which the Veer Naris were not required to travel physically to the venue and had participated online via video-conferencing. Necessary co-ordination was done by the volunteers from the battalion for the smooth conduct of the event.

These volunteers on behalf of the battalion presented mementoes to the Veer Naris. To make this event possible, the volunteers of the battalion travelled all the way from Machhal to Madurai in Tamil Nadu, Bhavnagar & Vadodara in Gujarat, Gorakhpur (UP), Bhagalpur (Bihar), Sangrur (Punjab), Ujjain (MP), Jhunjhunu & Bhilwara in Rajasthan and Satara, Sangali, Kolhapur, Aurangabad, Parbhani, Beed & Mumbai in Maharashtra. They also apprised the families regarding the activities of the battalion and about the various welfare schemes and provisions by the Government of India, State Government & the Indian Army.

The grievances and difficulties faced by the Veer Naris were also noted for resolution. This Battalion has served in Uri, Baramulla and Machhal (Kupwara) since raising in year 2004 and this was the first time in the history that local Kashmiri Youth had participated in the event and felicitated the Veer Naris on the behalf of Kashmiri Awaam. Patriotic Kashmiri citizens have physically travelled to the location of events all the way from Kashmir to express gratitude and pay their respect to the soldiers’ families who had made the supreme sacrifice for the cause of Kashmir.

NCC GIRL CADETS FELICITATED

On the occasion of International Women’s Day, the NCC Directorate of Maharashtra organised an event to commemorate the contribution of Women and Girls of NCC in various fields. Yashomati Chandrakant Thakur, Honorable Minister for Woman and Child Development in the Maharashtra government, who had also been an NCC Cadet, graced the occasion as the Chief Guest along with Sunil Kedar, Minister for Youth Welfare and Sports in Govt of Maharashtra. Principals of various schools/colleges of Mumbai were present along with lady Associate NCC officers. Nearly thirty NCC Girl cadets from various schools & colleges attended the function.

Maj Gen Y.P. Khanduri, Additional Director General NCC Maharashtra Directorate and Khanduri introduced the Ministers to all the officers from NCC and the cadets from all three wings of Armed Forces who have been instrumental in various socially relevant programmes especially in times of Covid 19 pandemic. Yashomati Chandrakant Thakur also exhorted the girl cadets to continue their stellar contribution to the society and always strive hard to achieve their objectives by never giving up.

Cadet Warrant Officer Kashish Methwani of 3 Maharashtra Air Squadron Pune, who was adjudged the best cadet in the Republic Day Parade 2021 and Junior Wing Cadet Kaamya Karthikeyan of 1 Naval unit, Maharashtra were presented a memento by the Chief Guest for their achievements. Cadet Kaamya also shared her experience of an adventurous journey of being a young mountaineer and awardee of Pradhan Mantri Rashtriya Bal Shakti Puraskar for being the youngest girl to summit Mt. Aconcagua, the highest peak in South America.

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Defence

MOU BETWEEN ARMY NORTHERN COMMAND AND IIT JAMMU TO DEVELOP TECHNOLOGIES

Ashish Singh

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A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between Headquarters Northern Command represented by Lt Gen S. Harimohan Iyer, Chief of Staff, Headquarters Northern Command and Indian Institute of Technology, Jammu (IIT Jammu) represented by Prof Manoj Singh Gaur, Director, Indian Institute of Technology, Jammu.

The objective of this MoU is to leverage the academic and technological prowess of Indian Institute of Technology, Jammu and domain knowledge/ expertise of Northern Command, in development of defence technology solutions and taking up joint projects for innovative solutions to weapon systems and equipment related problems of Northern Command.

The scope of the cooperation will be Research and Development (R&D) activities related to Northern Command, leveraging IIT Jammu’s expertise and technical infrastructure, and mutual interest and benefits on Research and Development (R&D) projects to solve Army’s problems which require research and experimentation.

The cost with respect to development of the project will be borne by the respective organisations as mutually agreed upon in respect of each project.

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Defence

NCC conducts week-long combined annual training camp in Agartala

Ashish Singh

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A week-long Combined Annual Training Camp for NCC cadets of Tripura NCC units which commenced at Agartala on 28 February culminated on Sunday. About 115 Senior Division & Senior Wing Cadets from various institutions in Tripura participated in this camp.

Professor Satyadeo Poddar, Vice Chancellor, MBB University, Agartala, was the Chief Guest at the Camp Closing Ceremony who gave away Prizes to the participating Cadets. He complimented the NCC training staff for imparting excellent training to the Cadets. Sharing his personal experience as a former NCC Cadet, he exhorted the Cadets to be physically fit, mentally robust and imbibe the virtues of NCC training in letter and spirit. He emphasised upon the need to work selflessly and contribute individually as well collectively towards Nation building, keeping the Motto of NCC always as the guiding factor.  

The camp was conducted by 13 Tripura Bn NCC Agartala under the aegis of NCC Directorate, NER, Shillong and NCC Group HQ Silchar with the timely assistance of Education Department, Government of Tripura. It was the first camp to be organised post Covid-19 pandemic.  The closing event was preceded by a Swachhata Awareness Rally.

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