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Is military alliance the best way forward for India?

Given the ongoing standoff with China at the Line of Actual Control, India should take the
lead in building a consensus for a multilateral military alliance against the Dragon.

Major General P. Rajagopal (Retd)

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Ladakh

India-China talks are a charade played by China — an absurd pretence intended to create a respectable appearance while the intentions are diametrically opposite. This pretence over the last four months has enabled China to achieve what it wanted all along — physically occupy disputed areas, extend Line of Actual control (LAC) further westwards unilaterally and create new facts on ground. Chances of China ensuring status quo ante of April 2019 appears remote if not ruled out completely. The talks at military, diplomatic and political levels have not yielded any worthwhile result. More meetings are scheduled — no major breakthrough can be expected in the prevailing environment; however, talks must continue so that communications are open and hopefully an open war which benefits no one is at least kept at bay. 

Having missed a few opportunities in the early days, what are the options now for India — a full-fledged or limited war to force China to vacate the disputed areas, an intervention at the highest political level or accept the present stalemate? A stalemate appears to be the most likely scenario — a “no war no peace” situation opens up a Pandora’s Box for India. India will now have to manage a total of almost 7,880kmof hostile border (3,323 km of IndoPakistan border, including the Line of Control (LoC) and 4,056 km of border, including the LAC with China (traversing four Indian states and one Indian Union Territory) at a high level of operational preparedness. Besides the length of the border, the terrain ranges from plains to deserts to high altitude to some of the highest battle fields in the world with extremely inhospitable conditions. With the Chinese border also getting fully activated, the hostile borders have more than doubled. 

Besides managing the physical and mental wellbeing of soldiers operating at temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees with high wind chill factor, there are also huge costs for equipping the soldiers with special protective clothing, high calorie diet, special living shelters, stocking of rations and fuel oil and lubricants for over 30,000 troops for the winters. Add to this the cost of Air Bridge — the transport aircraft and helicopters which is the main stay for ferrying supplies to the base and far-flung posts. Maintaining status quo will also be a gigantic task and entail huge cost. No doubt the only consolation for India is that it will be worse for China with a longer logistic tail and having to face the severe winters with troops who are not battle hardened for operating in these areas. India has now a two-front war staring at its face. India has always been fully prepared for a war with Pakistan. It was expected that if there was a war between India and Pakistan, China would not intervene directly. However, China feels threatened after India redefined the old State of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K) as two Union territories of J&K and Ladakh and the fresh map showed illegally occupied Pakistan occupied J&K besides Gilgit-Baltistan and Aksai Chin within the newly carved Union Territory of Ladakh. China has grand plans to invest billions in the CPEC corridor and Aksai Chin is a lifeline for China. 

India’s firm assertion that these areas will be wrested back probably put the Chinese antenna up. Hence the collusion between China and Pakistan is now irreversible and India has to be prepared for this. If push comes to a shove, India is capable of dealing a heavy blow on both fronts even if it is a collusive effort, but the better option is to have a strong deterrence to prevent either Pakistan or China even think of a military conflict. A force development for this collusive threat cannot be built up over a short period; moreover it can be done only at huge economic costs for a developing economy. 

This crisis is coming up at a time when the economy is badly shattered by the Covid crisis, with the GDP having shrunk nearly 24 percent. The present spending on defence is down to 1.56 percent of GDP, even lower than 1962. While no cost is too high for national security, it will still take a few years to build up this capability for a deterrent two and a half front strategy. For ensuring deterrence level capability, we have to address several issues like adequate levels of ammunition supply, capacity building, shrinking fleet of fighter jets, modernization, and so on. In this context, India has two options for the interim period of build-up–negotiate with China or Pakistan or join a military alliance. A deal with Pakistan is well-nigh impossible keeping in view the historic differences between both the countries; Pakistan cannot forget the humiliating defeat of 1971 and thrives on its anti-India agenda — Kashmir is the bone of contention. Pakistan is now further emboldened by its close ally, China so any reconciliation seems unlikely. As regards China, so far diplomacy had worked in keeping the threshold below conflict level; however, recent aggressive actions by China has changed all that. China has now made it clear that it wants to abide by the claimed 1959 LAC line and does not recognise the UT of Ladakh. This makes any negotiated peace difficult, if not impossible, unless China is ready to change its stand. In any case, a deal with China can work out only if we are ready to accept their terms which will be suicidal for India and its honour in the long term. Thus, the option of negotiating with one, while dealing with the other, seems well-nigh impossible. 

Hence India’s option now remains military only. Even if costs are set aside, India needs time to build up a credible deterrence. Is military alliance an interim option? The world around us is changing faster than ever before — politically, economically, technologically, environmentally and socially. Non alignment or multi-alignments are no more options. China has taken the role of a big bully and Russia is more or less keeping out of the Sino-US standoff. Whether it is Hong Kong, Taiwan, South China, treatment of Uighur Muslims or Tibetans and more recently in Ladakh in India, Bhutan or Nepal, China has shown that it does not care anymore for world opinion and will continue with its expansionist policy to be the world power. US-China relations are at its lowest ebb and an intense trade war is on. It is not only US, but many countries–Japan, Australia, Vietnam, South Korea, European Union, and others — who are up in arms against China. The global anti-China sentiment is at its highest since the 1989 Tiananmen Square crackdown. The world is watching as China hardens its foreign policy. It is time to build a military alliance against China. Had India been an ally of US, would China have dared to carry out its expansionist actions against India, knowing that there will be retaliation from US? While India has signed the General Security of Military Information Agreement with US, it falls well short of a military alliance. 

No doubt a bilateral military alliance with US will to a large extent reduce our strategic flexibility or freedom and willy-nilly draw us into conflicts across the world which may not be in our interest. Also, our friendship with Russia will be affected. Hence, multilateral military alliances may be the way forward. India can consider building up a credible military deterrence by working with US towards elevating Quadrilateral Security Dialogue (Quad) from an informal consultative mechanism to a targeted, need based, multilateral military alliance. So far, the Quad has moved in fits and starts — now, with China’s belligerence and hegemonic behaviour, all four countries, Japan-Australia, India and US (many ASEAN countries like South Korea and Vietnam may join the Quad plus) will be inclined towards an anti-China military alliance. The military alliance should be all encompassing and concerns of all the member countries, including India’s continental threats, should be addressed.

 It will not only have the band wagon effect, but also better strategic freedom for each country. India will also be able to continue its good relations with Russia rather than if it is a one to one bilateral military alliance with US alone. This option will give access to technology, and give India the time to build up its military muscle. China has reached a turning point and feels that time has come to shed the façade of diplomacy and use threat if needed for its expansionist policies across the world. India should shed its inhibitions and placatory diplomacy and take the fight to the other side. India is one of the largest democracies in the world, a major economic power and has goodwill and standing as a responsible nation in the changed global environment; it should seize the moment to play a decisive role in regional and international arena. India should take the lead in building a consensus for a multilateral military alliance against China. 

A paratrooper who had served in Ladakh at various levels, Major General P. Rajagopal AVSM, VSM (retired) has also commanded the division in eastern Ladakh

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Defence

A SALUTE TO THE INDOMITABLE SPIRIT OF KARGIL BRAVEHEARTS

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o commemorate the 23 years of victory over Pakistan in the Kargil War of 1999, the Indian Army on Monday organised a motorcycle expedition from New Delhi to the Kargil War Memorial at Dras (Ladakh).

The 30-member rally was flagged off by Lt Gen B S Raju, the Vice Chief of Army Staff from the National War Memorial, New Delhi on Monday.

Over the next six days, the team of 30 serving personnel who have embarked on this expedition will endeavour to replicate the indomitable spirit of the Kargil brave-hearts by rekindling the spirit of fortitude, courage and adventure synonymous with the Indian Army, said the Ministry of Defence.

The bike rally would pass through Haryana, Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh before culminating the expedition at the Kargil War Memorial, Dras on 26 July 2022.

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Defence

2 ARMY OFFICERS KILLED IN ACCIDENTAL GRENADE BLAST

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Two Army officers were killed in an accidental grenade blast along the Line of Control in the Mendhar sector of Jammu and Kashmir’s Poonch, the Defence Public Relations Office said on Monday. During the treatment, one army officer and one Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) succumbed to their injuries.

JCO Sub Bhagwan Singh

Captain Anand

“Last night, an accidental grenade blast occurred in Mendhar Sector, Dist Poonch, when troops were performing their duties along the Line of Control. The blast resulted in injuries to soldiers.

During the treatment, one officer and one JCO succumbed to their injuries, “said PRO Defence Jammu.

According to the Defence PRO, the blast occurred along the Line of Control (LOC) on Sunday night, when the army troops were performing their duties, thus injuring them. All the injured soldiers were immediately evacuated to Udhampur via helicopter.

As per the reports, one officer and one Junior Commissioned Officer (JCO) succumbed to the injuries.

The Indian Army expressed grief over the death of two officers.

The Indian Army tweeted, “General officer commanding (GOC) @Whiteknight_IA and all Ranks salute brave hearts Capt Anand and Nb Sub Bhagwan Singh who made the supreme sacrifice while performing their duties on the LoC in Mendhar Sector. We offer deepest condolences to their family members.”

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Defence

MAKE IN INDIA PUSH: IAF TO INDUCT COMBAT AIRCRAFT

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Air Chief Marshal VR Chaudhari on Sunday said that the Indian Air Force (IAF) is planning to induct Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA) and Light Combat Aircraft MK-1A and MK-2 along with the 114 multirole fighters. This will be done to bolster India’s combat capabilities through indigenisation under “Make-in-India” in the future.

The IAF chief said that the move will not only “strengthen the Air Force” but also bring a “huge boost” to the Indian aviation industry as part of the Aatmanirbhar Bharat initiative of the Narendra Modi government. “On the aircraft front, we are looking ahead for the AMCA and the LCA MK-1A and also the LCA MK-2 a few years from now. The case for 114 MRFA is also progressing well. With this, it will not only strengthen the Air Force but also bring a huge boost to the Indian aviation industry,” ANI quoted the Air Chief Marshal as saying.

“We have already committed for seven squadrons of AMCA. The numbers for the LCA MK-2, we will take a call as and when the first production model comes out and we start inducting the aircraft into the air force and we can always increase the quantity based on its performance and rate of induction,” he added while speaking about the number of units of the aircraft that the IAF is planning to induct.

When asked about the timeline of the induction of the S-400 air defence system from Russia into the forces, he said that it will be done as per the schedule adding that all deliveries should be completed by the end of next year. “The induction program of S-400 is going as per the schedule. The first firing unit has been inducted and deployed. The second unit is also in the process of getting inducted. Delivery schedules are on time, hopeful that by the end of next year all deliveries will be completed,” Chaudhari said.

“The threat of multiple fronts always exists. The capabilities of the air force in handling two fronts at a time will necessarily have to keep getting bolstered by the induction of various platforms. On the ground, we will need more radars, and additional SAGW systems and all of these are going to come from indigenous sources, for which the action is already at hand,” he added.

The IAF chief further said that the forces are fully in sync with the Centre’s Aatmanirbhar Bharat push which has resulted in the “quick induction” of platforms such as the light-combat helicopter and aircraft and radar systems.

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Defence

SEARCHES FOR SURVIVORS ON, ARMY INDUCTS RADAR

Ajay Jandyal

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The Indian Army on Sunday inducted radars to trace survivors under the debris which was laid after a cloudburst struck the area near the holy shrine of Amarnath on Friday.“Xaver 4000 radar has been inducted and has been operational at Amarnath since late noon for finding any survivors under the debris,” said Indian Army officials. Earlier, Lieutenant Governor (LG) of Jammu and Kashmir Manoj Sinha on Sunday visited a base camp in Pahalgam and met pilgrims.“The security personnel and administration have carried out an efficient rescue operation. We pay condolences to those who lost their lives. Efforts are underway to resume the Yatra along with repairing the path. Pilgrims should come, we will provide them with all facilities,” Sinha assured.

Rescue operations underway at cloudburst-affected areas of Amarnath, on Sunday. ANI

The Amarnath yatra was temporarily suspended on Friday, till further notice. 

However, the pilgrims have been waiting at the Baltal Base camp for it to recommence.As many as 35 pilgrims were discharged following treatment, Shri Amarnathji Shrine Board (SASB) Officials informed on Saturday.“35 pilgrims have been discharged following treatment. 17 people are getting the treatment and are likely to get discharged tonight. All safe and healthy,” said SASB Officials.The critically injured patients were airlifted to Srinagar.“Critically injured people were airlifted to Srinagar. 2 people who were buried but were alive were rescued. We’re taking all precautionary steps. 41 missing as per Jammu and Kashmir police out of which some were rescued. Yatra may resume within a day or two,” said Kuldiep Singh, DG, CRPF.As per the National Disaster Response Force (NDRF) data on Saturday, at least 16 people have died in the cloud burst incident near the holy shrine of Amarnath.Meanwhile, four Mi-17V5 and four Cheetal helicopters of the Indian Air Force were deployed for rescue and relief efforts at the Amarnath shrine on Saturday.The Cheetal helicopters flew 45 sorties, carrying five NDRF and Army personnel and 3.5 tonnes of relief material while evacuating 45 survivors from the holy cave.Earlier the officials on Saturday informed that the LG chaired a high-level meeting to review the ongoing rescue and relief operations at Amarnath cave.Meanwhile, the Indian Army informed that they have pulled up “critical rescue equipment” to speed up the rescue operations in the affected areas.“Indian Army pulls up critical rescue equipment to speed up the process of rescue operations and route maintenance in view of recent cloudburst of Amarnath in which 16 people lost their lives while several are assumed missing,” said the Indian Army.

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Defence

LET TERRORIST TALIB HUSSAIN NOT A MEMBER OF BJP: J&K BJP CHIEF

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Jammu and Kashmir BJP chief Ravinder Raina on Monday said the most wanted Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) terrorist Talib Hussain who was apprehended from Reasi district is neither an “active member of the BJP nor a primary member”.

 Speaking to ANI, Raina said, “Hussain is neither an active member of the BJP nor a primary member. There was a letter circular, on the basis of which it is believed that Sheikh Bashir, who is the President of BJP Minority Front of Jammu and Kashmir had appointed Hussain on 9 May.” He termed the reports fake which claimed that one of the two most-wanted LeT terrorists, who were overpowered by locals and handed over to the police, was in charge of the party’s IT cell.

 The BJP leader further said after that Hussain had circulated a letter himself and resigned from the membership of the party on 18 May. “A couple of years ago, Hussain along with with his three colleagues used to come to the BJP office as a media person. He had also interviewed me many times, he used to call himself a reporter for a YouTube channel named ‘New Sehar India’,” Raina said.

 “As a journalist, Hussain clicked photos with us many times in the BJP office. Pakistan terror outfit wanted to target the head office of the BJP of Jammu and Kashmir. It has been done through the targeted medium and carried out such incidents,” he said. “It is too soon to say more on this matter as the investigation is going on. Not only the BJP, but all the offices of other political parties need to be more alert now,” Raina added.

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INDIAN NAVAL SHIPS SAHYADRI, KADMATT VISIT SINGAPORE

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Indian Naval Ships Sahyadri and Kadmatt, under the Command of Rear Admiral Sanjay Bhalla, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet, visited Singapore from 1 to 3 July as part of the deployment to South East Asia. The Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) and the Indian Navy personnel engaged in social and informal exchanges as part of a cross-visit to improve mutual cooperation. The visit was aimed at consolidating ties and enhancing mutual understanding.The visit of Indian ships helped enhance maritime co-operation and bolster India’s strong bonds of friendship with Singapore that would further contribute towards security and stability in the region. The ships’ visit coincided with Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Day on 1 July. “Indian Navy’s South East Asia deployment INS Sahyadri and INS Kadmatt under Command of Rear Admiral Sanjay Bhalla, FOCEF in Singapore from 1 to 3 July. Professional and social interactions with Singapore Navy to enhance mutual cooperation and understanding and consolidate interoperability” read a tweet shared by the Indian Navy. It added, “Coinciding with Singapore Armed Forces SAF Day, 01 Jul 22, the ships’ visit strengthens maritime cooperation, bolstering India-Singapore bonds of friendship – contributing towards security and stability in the region.”

INS Sahyadri is an indigenously built multi-role stealth Frigate and INS Kadmatt is an indigenously built Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Corvette. The Indo-Pacific vision of a free, open, inclusive and rules-based region as articulated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in 2018 is the driving force behind India’s engagement in the region continued to be directed by the Indo-Pacific vision of a free, open, inclusive and rules-based region as articulated by PM Modi at Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore in 2018.In 2021, Singapore Minister of Defence Ng Eng Hen participated in the inaugural India Ocean Region Defence Ministers’ Conclave (DMC), wherein he conveyed Singapore’s support to India’s leadership to foster a rules-based maritime order in the Indian Ocean region. This was followed by the annual Singapore-India Maritime Bilateral Exercise (SIMBEX), conducted by Singapore Navy and Indian Navy. The exercise involved a virtual planning phase followed by a ‘contactless’ sea phase in the southern reaches of the South China Sea within international waters.During the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, Singapore’s position as a logistic hub enabled both the public and private sector to source emergency relief supplies such as oxygen- tanks, cylinders, concentrators, ventilators etc. from Singapore to India.

26 Indian Air Force sorties and four Indian Navy Ships transported substantial quantities of these items from Singapore to India till the end of June 2021.

This was followed by the 5th India-Singapore Defence Minister’s dialogue, which was held via virtual conference on 20 January 2021. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh discussed furthering cooperation and engagement with Singapore’s Defence Minister.

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