JOINT MILITARY EXERCISES: A NECESSARY TOOL IN DEFENCE DIPLOMACY - The Daily Guardian
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JOINT MILITARY EXERCISES: A NECESSARY TOOL IN DEFENCE DIPLOMACY

Given China’s actions in eastern Ladakh and its collusion with Pakistan, India needs to strengthen its military capabilities, not only by upgrading its troops and tools, but also by finding allies to back it up in times of need. A great way of securing such necessary partnerships is by conducting and participating in joint military exercises with other like-minded democratic nations.

Lt Gen Dushyant Singh (retd.)

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On the night of 27-28 January, 2021, three more Rafale fighters joined the Indian Rafale squadron, taking the total to 11 aircrafts. A total of 36 aircrafts have been contracted by India in a government-to-government deal. The contracting of 83 Tejas aircrafts, the demonstration of the will to go in for armed drones in a big way, the successful landing and take-off of the LCA Tejas Navy, test firing Akash, the new generation air defence missile designed to intercept high-speed aerial threats with a very small ground footprint, and the completion of the wind tunnel test of the LCA Tejas Mk 2 are all very encouraging steps in military capability development. 

Future wars are going to be won by the side that can wage successful effect-based operations with lean and mean ground forces ready to exploit the favourable situations created by manned or unmanned aerial firepower, using high precision and lethal technologies. The concept of support and supported arms will continue to get defused. In such a milieu, China enjoys a significant military edge over India. India, therefore, needs to explore all options to ensure its security against external military threats. Defence diplomacy is an important soft power component of Comprehensive National Power (CNP) and joint bilateral and multilateral military exercises are an effective instrument of defence diplomacy. In turn, defence diplomacy helps in building strategic partnerships and contributes in furthering our national interests.

The US and China practice military diplomacy in a big way. A Chinese scholar has defined China’s military diplomacy as “the pursuit of foreign policy objectives under the guidance of China’s national grand strategy through the peaceful employment of military resources and capabilities to maintain national interests (both domestically and overseas), security, and development.” India too has embarked upon this path in recent times and intensified its efforts in conducting bilateral and multilateral military exercises. As mentioned before, bilateral and multilateral exercises are important tools of defence diplomacy, and as part of this strategy, India recently conducted two major exercises whose details and impacts are discussed below.

THE INDO-FRENCH JOINT AIR EXERCISE

The Indian Air Force and the French Air Space and Force recently conducted a five-day bilateral exercise, Desert Knight-21, from 20-25 January, 2021. As per MoD reports, for the first time, Rafale aircrafts from both sides participated in the exercise. The Indian participation comprised the Sukhoi-30, Rafales, Mirage 200, AAR (Air to Air Refueler) AWACS and AEW&C aircraft. Similarly, Rafale, Airbus A-330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT), A-400M Tactical Transport aircraft and approximately 175 personnel participated from France. This was the seventh joint exercise between the two countries.

India and France also conduct hop exercises, in which, if India or France are moving to a third country for a joint exercise, a short joint exercise is conducted if the other country falls en route. For example, in 2018, while going to Australia for a joint exercise called Pitch Black, France conducted a joint exercise with India. The exercise provided an opportunity for the two sides to learn from each other›s best practices, besides improving interoperability. Interoperability is an essential component in multinational task force operations either as part of the UN or regional grouping.

THE MALABAR EXERCISE

Earlier in November and December 2020, the navies of the US, Japan, India and Australia took part in the 24th edition of the Exercise Malabar. The first edition started as a bilateral exercise in 1992 between India and the US. The Australian Navy took part in the exercise for the first time. The exercise was conducted in two phases. Phase I of the 24th edition of the Malabar was held from November 3 to 6 off the Visakhapatnam coast in the Bay of Bengal and Phase II was held from 17-20 November in the northern Arabian Sea.

The exercise was led by dual carrier operations by USS Nimitz and INS Vikramaditya. Besides surface vessels and submarines, the event also included firing and Air Defence exercises with the MiG-29K and F/A 18 and E2C Hawkeye aircrafts. The consistency and regularity with which this exercise has been conducted since 1992 has the potential to emerge as the backbone of the military component of Quad or Quad plus, with the UK and France joining in as and when that happens. The Malabar Exercises, in conjunction with the US operations to ensure the freedom of the seas by regularly deploying a carrier group in the South China Sea, would ensure security in the Indo-Pacific and IOR, as would the commitment of the participating countries to support a free, open and inclusive Indo-Pacific as well as a rules-based international order. For example, the USPACOM deployed the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG) in the South China Sea on 23 January to conduct routine operations. The US operation aims to ensure the freedom of the seas, build partnerships that foster maritime security and conduct a wide range of operations. The combined impact of Malabar and USPACOM operations will also help India manage its security threats slightly better.

MAJOR TAKEAWAYS

While it is understood that merely conducting joint exercises does not assure deterrence against our adversaries, it still is an important component of military diplomacy in furtherance of our CNP. Such exercises are also seen as an assurance that critical supply of spares and accessories will be guaranteed during a possible conflict. Further, it ensures a positive attitude in international forums in favour of India, such as the UNSC. Moreover, with shifts in the security concern for most of the major powers such as the US, UK, EU, Japan and Australia in the Indo-Pacific, militarisation of a QUAD-like grouping appears to be a distinct possibility and India must not shy away from joining such an alignment.

It is high time we realise that like Pakistan, China is an arch rival of India. Henceforth, we need to deal with China as a rival. Recently, the Indian External Affairs Minister minced no words when he said, “The Ladakh incident profoundly disturbed India-China relations.” He went on to state that instead of mitigating matters, China has acted by amassing troops along our borders, contrary to existing agreements,  and refused to disengage from their current positions, despite nine rounds of border talks. In such a security scenario, expecting reconciliatory behaviour from China is naive and wishful thinking.

CONCLUSION

In a one-on-one situation, India is the weaker power in comparison to China. Further, the China-Pak collusion is a reality which demands that India explore partners and, if need be, become a part of an alliance of like-minded democratic countries with common interests in the region. Despite the willpower, physical and mental robustness of our troops, the experience of operating in super-high altitude terrain and the recent measures to build our military capability, it still needs the backing and support of major military powers. India has conducted bilateral exercises with eight countries, including China, till now. It conducts and participates in five multilateral exercises, of which the Malabar (4 countries), RIMPAC (26 countries) and Milan (30 countries) exercises are yearly/biennial events. Such activities are ideal tools of defence diplomacy and strategic communication which can further our national security interests and provide the necessary backing for India to adopt a firmer approach while dealing with adversaries. 

Lt Gen Dushyant Singh (retd) has served in varied terrains and theatre of operations, in India and in the UN as Military Observer. He has commanded an Infantry Battalion, Brigade and a Division in Jammu and Kashmir. He is currently Professor Emeritus Defence Studies at Gujarat Raksha Shakti University.

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Defence

‘ARMY CAN MEET ANY CHALLENGE TO SAFEGUARD COUNTRY’

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The Army is fully prepared to meet any challenge like the use of drones and social media by adversaries to safeguard the country, said Commandant of Chennai-based Officers Training Academy (OTA) Lieutenant General M K Das. Lt Gen Das, who is also the colonel of the Jammu and Kashmir Light Infantry (JAKLI) regiment, said the situation in J&K is getting better with the Army and other security agencies working together to stamp out terrorism. Speaking to media on the sidelines of the maiden attestation parade of 460 new recruits of the 126th batch after a successful 40-week training period at Dansal here, he said the Indian Army is aware of the challenges and prepared to give a befitting response to the enemies of the nation.

Talking about the need to introduce special training courses for soldiers in the aftermath of the developments in Afghanistan, he said, “Our training is very contemporary as it caters for all the contingencies and unforeseen situations. My young soldiers, who have taken the oath to defend the constitution and the country, will live up to all the challenges. One of the unique things of this regiment (JAKLI) is all our troops hail from J&K and Ladakh. They have ingrained quality to be security conscious much more than others.” Lt Gen Das said, “All the situations unfolding in the country or in our neighbourhood, the JAKLI regiment will continue to excel and be the lead agency in the fight against terrorism.” Asked about the challenges posed by the use of drones to hit targets and deliver weapons and narcotics from across the LoC and International Border, he said a capsule course on anti-drone measures has been introduced. “On Army Day on 15 January, our chief took the threat seriously and our soldiers are being prepared to deal with the challenge in a better way.” During recruitment training, Lt Gen Das said that besides the arms handing and exercises, thrust is also given on science and technology, cybersecurity and other new challenges. He said the misuse of social media by “anti-national” elements is a reality and the new recruits are being trained in cybersecurity during their basic and orientation courses.

On attempts by Pakistan to mislead the youth of J&K, Lt Gen Das said, “The youth of J&K is showing keenness to be a part of the regiment which is a message to those who think they can mislead our youth. Joining the regiment is the best way to serve the nation, the youth live like a family and there is complete communal harmony.” He said the regiment is increasing the number of local youth from Ladakh and would also go for recruitment in J&K to provide an opportunity to the local youth to become part of this regiment. Asked about his message to the misguided youth, he said, “J&K is the crown of India but if I focus as a soldier, I feel they (misguided youth) have not understood their country… the situation has not gone out of hand and the Army has kept its window open to allow them to surrender and join the national mainstream.”

He added, “We have a unit of 162 Infantry Territorial Army who are former militants but have become upright soldiers.” Lt Gen Das said the Army and other security agencies are working in close coordination and the situation in J&K is getting better and the “day is not far when this region will make our country proud.”

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Defence

SOUTHERN NAVAL COMMAND OBSERVES INTERNATIONAL COASTAL CLEAN-UP DAY IN KOCHI

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The Southern Naval Command observed International Coastal Clean-up Day on Saturday with a focus on mangrove plantation and clearance of plastic/non-biodegradable waste along with waterfront areas in and around Kochi, said a press release from the Ministry of Defence.

Pursuant to the global campaign of keeping coastlines clean, more than 600 Naval personnel and the families of Southern Naval Command undertook clearance of plastic and non-biodegradable waste at different locations spread across the city, coastal areas such as Fort Kochi beach, Thevara waterfront, Willingdon Island, Cherai beach, Bolgatty and around 2 km stretch of the Venduruthy channel while restoring around 1 lakh sqm of mangroves to the pristine condition. In addition, 80 mangrove saplings were also planted along the Venduruthy channel. Similar coastal cleanup drives and lectures/webinars/competitions emphasising protection of the coastal and marine environment were undertaken with the enthusiastic participation of the Naval community at other outstation Naval units located at Lonavala, Jamnagar, Chilka, Coimbatore, Goa, Ezhimala and Mumbai.

Being the Training Command of the Indian Navy, the Southern Naval Command has always been at the vanguard in promoting environmental conservation activities both at the Command Headquarters, Kochi as well as at Naval stations spread across the country.

Mandated to oversee naval training, the Southern Naval Command has conceptualised and implemented a variety of green initiatives. Keeping environmental preservation as one of the Key Result Areas, the Command has constantly endeavoured to motivate young officer and sailor trainees of the Indian Navy to imbibe the habit of protecting mother nature as part of their grooming efforts in preparing them to become responsible future Naval leaders and dependable citizens of India.

Particular attention has also been given to create more awareness among the families and more importantly the children.

During the last three years, the Command has adopted a multi-dimensional approach towards conservation of the environment and implementation of energy conservation methods.

To highlight a few, the personnel of the Command were actively involved in the rejuvenation of 4.5-km-long Venduruthy Channel near Kochi Naval base, creating awareness in and around Naval establishments.

Efforts were undertaken to enhance green cover by conducting mass plantation drives which included planting more than 75,000 trees, using the fast-growing Miyawaki forestation method. In addition, regular coastal clean-up drives, mangrove plantation drives, in-house handling and recycling of bio and non-biodegradable waste, adopting efficient energy and water-saving methods etc were also undertaken. The Command has also earnestly endeavoured to continue all the efforts for protecting and conserving the environment and natural resources. Towards achieving the same, the Command has implemented a Green Initiative and Environment Conservation Roadmap with a prime focus on Carbon footprint reduction.

With the personal involvement of Vice Admiral Anil Kumar Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Southern Naval Command is committed to creating a clean, green and healthy environment in line with the visionary environment conservation policies of the Govt of India. On the occasion, Adv M Anilkumar, Mayor, Kochi Municipal Corporation and staff also participated in Kochi.

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Defence

IAF TO HOLD AIR SHOW OVER DAL LAKE IN SRINAGAR ON 26 SEPT

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An air show will be held here on 26 September where IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga and Suryakiran Aerobatic and Display Team and paramotor flying will manoeuvre the skies over the famous Dal Lake, officials informed on Saturday.

The air show will be organised by the Air Force Station Srinagar and the Jammu and Kashmir administration as part of the ongoing celebrations commemorating ‘Azadi ka Amrit Mahotsav’, they said. The main aim of the exercise—under the theme ‘Give Wings to Your Dream’—is to motivate the youth of the valley to join the Indian Air Force (IAF) and to promote tourism in the region, the officials said.

The event will be flagged off Lieutenant Governor Manoj Sinha at the Sher-e-Kashmir International Conference Centre (SKICC) overlooking Dal Lake.

More than 3,000 college and school students are expected to participate in the programme to witness the impressive manoeuvres of the IAF, which will motivate them to dream about a career in the force and in the aviation sector, the officials said. “The show will also develop passion among the students to give wings to their dreams. Along with the students, 700 teachers will also be present at the venue,” they added.

During the demonstration, students will also be familiarised with the new technological advancements achieved and incorporated by the IAF while flying aircraft in the sky over the world-famous Dal Lake, the officials said. Stalls will be established at SKICC where students will be familiarised with the achievements of the Air Force, employment opportunities in the IAF, recruitment rules and eligibility criteria, they added.

Srinagar-based PRO Defence Col Emron Musavi said the display will include flypast by various aircraft of the IAF. The spectators would also get to witness paramotor flying and IAF’s skydiving team Akash Ganga in action. ‘Ambassadors of IAF’, Suryakiran Aerobatic Display Team, will be performing in the valley after a gap of 14 years, he said. Col Musavi said the symphony orchestra of the IAF would also be performing at the event. The event would also consist of a photo exhibition depicting the history of the

IAF, he said. 

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ARMY ORGANISES EXHIBITION IN JAIPUR TO COMMEMORATE INDIA’S VICTORY IN 1971 WAR

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JAIPUR : South Western Command of the Indian Army on Saturday organised an exhibition showcasing defence equipment at Chitrakoot Stadium in Jaipur to mark the 50th anniversary of India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.

Speaking to ANI, an Indian army official said, “We have displayed the defence equipment in this exhibition to make people aware of the Indian army achievements. We want to motivate the youth by showcasing these types of equipment.” “Under the leadership of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, these events had been started to make people aware of Indian Arm Forces. So, we are also continuing the move by organising these kinds of events,” he added.

Further, he said that India’s victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war is memorable for all the Indians, so, every citizen should be aware of this war.  

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BRO makes history, appoints woman Army officer in-charge of road construction unit

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The Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has appointed a woman Army officer for the first as the Officer Commanding of its 75 road construction company (RCC) in Uttarakhand, the Defence Ministry said on Sunday.

The three platoon commanders under Major Aaina, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K became the first women RCC. The appointments were made on August 30.

BRO on Sunday recalled the list of women officers who were assigned higher leadership roles in the organisation in the current year.

According to a statement issued by the Defence Ministry, BRO has inducted a large number of women into its workforce over the years, right from officers to the level of commercial pilot license holders. “In this regard, a General Reserve Engineer Force (GREF) officer EE (Civ) Vaishali S Hiwase took over the reins of 83 Road Construction Company on April 28, employed on an important Indo-China road connecting Munisairi-Bughdiar-Milam, in an area full of adversity and challenges. The lady officer has taken control and is leading the charge with meticulous execution of her tasks,” the statement said.

“The BRO created history again on 30 August when Major Aaina of Project Shivalik took charged as Officer Commanding, 75 Road Construction Companies (RCC) at Pipalkoti in Chamoli district in Uttarakhand. She is the first Indian Army Engineer Officer to command a road construction company. Not only this, all three platoon commanders under her, Captain Anjana, AEE (Civ) Bhawana Joshi and AEE (Civ) Vishnumaya K are lady officers and they have together created a first-ever women RCC. The Border Roads plans to make four such all women-led RCCs, two each in North Eastern and Western Sectors.”

As India celebrates 75 Years of Azaadi Ka Amrit Mahotsav, it also celebrates the ongoing efforts of our Nation towards women empowerment. Women today have started assuming their rightful, equal place as the frontrunners in nation-building and representatives of our strong national character, the statement read.

Over the last six decades, in a graduated and steady manner, the BRO has increased the number of women employed in various roles and duties of road construction. A consolidated effort is being made to empower them by giving them authority and responsibilities to undertake work independently. These women have become symbols of Nari Shakti in their respective areas.

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IN FIRST FOREIGN VISIT AFTER TAKING OVER AS CDS, GEN BIPIN RAWAT TO VISIT RUSSIA, US

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In his first visit abroad after taking over as the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Bipin Rawat will be visiting Russia and the US.

Rawat took over his new office as CDS on 31 December 2019, and since then has been declining foreign invitations for focusing on the new assignment of integrating the defence forces as a combined fighting force. “There is a conference of the CDS-rank officers of the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement member countries. China and Pakistan are also part of this grouping,” senior defence officials said.

The CDS conference would be focusing on addressing the regional security issues and Afghanistan is also likely to come up for discussion, they said.

The CDS would also witness the activities of the respective armed forces taking part in the SCO peace mission drills being held in Russia. Indian Army and Air Force are also taking part in the exercise there.

The visit will take place in the coming week and soon after return from Russia, Rawat would be leaving for the US for meeting his counterpart and other American military leadership at the Pentagon.

The two countries have been coming closer militarily in the last few years and have been holding multiple military exercises and hardware cooperation.

The Indian military saw a major change in senior-level structures under the Narendra Modi government as the focus is now on the theatrisation of the fighting forces and bringing in more capabilities and jointness among the three services. 

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