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Merchant vessel fire: Sri Lanka seeks help, Coast Guard pressed into service

Ashish Singh

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In response to request of Sri Lankan authorities and Government of India directives thereon, Indian Coast Guard swiftly deployed its assets to provide immediate assistance towards major fire incident onboard container vessel MV X-Press Pearl off Colombo. While Indian Coast Guard (ICG) ship Vaibhav on maritime patrol was diverted immediately to reach the scene of incident by evening of 25th May, ICG ship Vajra was despatched from Tuticorin and arrived on scene in the wee hours of 26th May. Presently, both the ships are fighting the intense fire onboard the casualty ship using external fire fighting system braving the odds of rough weather. ICG ship Samudra Prahari, a specialised Pollution Response (PR) vessel has also been despatched in PR configuration to augment the firefighting efforts and respond to oil spill, if occurred. ICG Dornier aircraft has undertaken air reconnaissance of the area for assessment and support. No oil spill has been reported.

The distressed vessel MV X-Press Pearl was carrying 1486 containers with nitric acid and other hazardous IMDG code chemicals. The extreme fire, damage to containers and prevailing inclement weather has caused the vessel to tilt to one side resulting in falling of containers overboard. Concerted joint efforts are in progress by two ICG Ships and four tugs of Sri Lankan authorities to douse the fire. ICG ship Vajra had entered Colombo port on 26th May evening and handed over 4500 litres of AFFF compound and 450 kg Dry Chemical Powder to Sri Lanka authorities before rejoining the firefighting operations early morning today. In addition, ICG formations at Kochi, Chennai and Tuticorin are standby for immediate assistance towards Pollution Response. Continuous coordination is being maintained with Sri Lankan Coast Guard and other Sri Lankan authorities for augmenting the overall response operations towards containing the fire onboard MV X-Press Pearl.

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Defence

CHINA VS CHINA: UNRAVELLING AN INTERESTING BATTLE

China, as we see it today, will not be the same in another five years. India needs to be cognisant of this fact and script a long-term strategy to handle the emerging Dragon.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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Galwan happened last year. A lot of water has flown in Indus. Sino Indian animosity is ascendant. Beyond a doubt, China is inimical to India’s interests in every respect. Chinese hatred of India was evident in the picture of a Chinese rocket at take-off besides a burning Indian pyre. China mocked India during our grief of the second wave. It also ensured that help does not reach India on one pretext or the other. Further, China does not understand another civilisation antithetical to its own in all respects — religion, culture, practices, ethnicities, and politics. A singular and homogeneous China and a heterogeneous and plural India have no common ground. Indian democracy has strengths far beyond the authoritarian CCP. India is a major threat to China in ways beyond our own self-deprecating and dismissive imagination. George Fernandes once said, “China is India’s number one enemy”. We should treat it accordingly.         

As we move into the second year of the Covid-19 pandemic, new equations are emerging. China was projected as a technological, economic, and financial giant. The Chinese dream was being rejuvenated through the greatest military on earth. The general belief was that China is the next superpower, set to dominate the world. A reality check is needed. Contrary to popular perception, emerging challenges faced by China are more than the opportunities presenting themselves. People might not agree with me. However, like the Chinese, I would like to see things in the long term.

China has entered its historical phase of ‘China vs China’. We need to understand this phenomenon. Historically, one generation of communist China has seeded major problems for the next generation. Mao’s ‘Great Leap Forward’ led to the great famine where millions perished in hunger. It generated widespread poverty till the next generation. Deng Xiaoping, accredited with opening up China, also started the ‘One Child Policy’. It is now propelling China into a demographic disaster. Xi Jinping’s ‘Rejuvenation of China’s Dream’ program marked by aggression and assertion has already put the next generations at risk. China’s naked ambition has put it under severe scrutiny, which it had escaped so far. There is a discernible switch from ‘aided’ to ‘impeded’ growth. ‘Cooperation’ has turned to ‘contestation’. Major fault lines — short and long term — crisscrossing each other have emerged.    

Demography: South China Morning Post published a series of 16 articles on China’s demography recently. It has not published a 16 series analysis so far in the past two years. This unprecedented analysis indicates the bleakness of the future with no solutions offered. The graph published recently by Renmin University defines the problem. The Renmin University figures are doctored to show the ‘State’ in a good light. Hence the problem is even graver. China’s population is shrinking irrevocably. The current fertility rate is 1.3 children per woman, which is well below the replacement level of 2.1. In just five years, the ratio of working population to non-working (dependent) population will be 60: 40 and will continue to reduce further. Working hands which have already reduced from 10:1 to 5:1 will further decrease. The situation, as per many analysts will be far worse. The recently enunciated ‘three child policy’ is a panic reaction. It is not a solution. People cannot afford to raise one child leave alone three. Girls do not want to get married. The gender ratio is skewed with 30 million unmarried men. Life expectancy has increased to 80. Old people are increasing and social security is inadequate. China will have to spend phenomenal sums on pensions. Pension funds are emptying and risk running dry. China’s younger workforce is decreasing. The middle and old age workforce are not suited for disruptive technologies. Technological superiority is a chimaera. China has a zero migration policy hence population inversion cannot take place as it does in the US. Further, even PLA does not have quality recruits. It has already lowered education, height and eyesight requirements. Look at it anyway — reducing population, reducing the workforce, shrinking pool for high technology, increasing old people, lowered standards for the army, reducing marriages, and reducing childbirths. Combine it with the headwinds on the economic front and its increased global footprint. People are the base for any nation. That is irretrievably skewed.  

Virus and Vaccines: The inefficiency of Chinese vaccines is now admitted by Chinese themselves. This is now proven by a rethink in Seychelles, the UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, the Philippines and others. It also highlights the weaknesses of China’s technology. It will have a diplomatic fallout. The important issue is the internal effect. The virus is mutating with a shorter incubation period, faster transmission, greater virulence and higher viral load. New mutations are clearly beyond the Chinese vaccines. Chinese people remain unvaccinated. “China is at a very critical moment,” Zhong Nanshan, their top respiratory disease expert, said in a recent interview. “When other countries have been very well vaccinated, and China still lacks immunity, then that will be very dangerous”. The Chinese playbook of vast testing, strict movement controls and intense scrutiny of international arrivals will now impede economic growth. The new outbreaks suggest that the virus will circulate in China for a long. Look at it from any point of view — economic, technological, diplomatic or political- the law of diminishing returns is setting in for the Chinese. China will not break free ahead of others. 

Viral Stigma: There is no doubt that the Virus originated in Wuhan. The question is whether it was a natural zoonotic transmission or an engineered one which leaked out? Was it biological warfare? The lab leak theory, though based on circumstantial evidence, is getting stronger by the day. There has been no logical explanation about the natural origins of the Virus. Scientific investigation indicates that something fishy was going on in the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). That is reinforced by the fact that China has sealed all data of the WIV and is refusing to part with any information. China has hidden a lot. Hereafter, whether it is confirmed or not, China will be blamed and lampooned for the origin of the virus — officially or unofficially. Theories of biological warfare will abound. Chinese secrecy, aggression and attitude will enhance the perceptions. Loss of face in private is assured if not in public. China will carry the cross of this virus to stigmatise future generations. More the denial, greater will be the sticking power. China will be equated to the virus eventually. This will start appearing in all kinds of literature, school and history books. Repercussions will be wide-ranging and well into the future. 

Afghanistan: The moment of reckoning for China —the wannabe superpower, has arrived. Till now China had the insurance of the US’s presence in Afghanistan. That will vanish in September. China has to protect its interests on its own hereafter. It must secure its borders and stop extremism spilling over into Xinjiang. Its $3 billion investment in a giant copper mine in Aynak must be secured. It has to prop up a failing Pakistan to keep the CPEC and BRI going. It has already established a military base 12-14 Km from the Tajik-Afghan border and 30 km from the Tajik-China border in Gorno-Badakhshan province around 2019. It is in the process of constructing a road through the Wakhan Corridor. Chinese commitment in Afghanistan is set to increase in ways unknown. China is coming into the military centre stage wittingly or otherwise. Inevitably, it will have to shed blood to protect its interests. Slowly this military involvement will spread internationally. The military costs will go up and overstretch will commence. 

Outlook and Image: The images and epithets associated with China are wolf warriorism, assertion, aggression, debt-trap diplomacy, IPR theft, currency manipulation, untrustworthy, coercion, threats, corruption, and human rights abuses. Overall, a negative image has developed over the past year. Chinese actions have matched these descriptions in the South China Sea, Hongkong, Eastern Ladakh, Paracels, Australia, EU, Taiwan, Senkaku’s, Xinjiang, Tibet, and many more. The Chinese are also attempting to repair their image. Despite that, China continues with its arrogant outlook and ideology. For example, China came to an understanding with the EU on a new investment pact. It was touted as a diplomatic coup. EU imposed some sanctions due to severe human rights abuses in Xinjiang. China retaliated with sanctions on some EU politicians and entities. In response, the European Parliament paused the ratification of its new investment pact with China. China has now started shooting itself in its foot. It is a typical China vs China story. 

Exclusion: Throughout last year, the expectation was that China will be isolated. In a globalised and interconnected world, China has created multiple dependencies. Isolation will never occur. That is clear. However, something else is taking shape. The leaders of ‘G7’ (Germany, Japan, France, the UK, Canada, the US, Italy and Canada) plus Australia, South Korea, India and South Africa met recently (11 to 13 June). This is the first major meet of the world’s powerful democracies during the pandemic. The focus was on China, alternate supply chains and rivalling the Belt and Road. The significant issue is that in a year, two frameworks – ‘QUAD’ and ‘G7 Plus’ have evolved from which China has been excluded. The larger implication is that China might see the birth of international systems from which it is excluded and in which it is the main antagonist. China has to swim against the very current which helped its rise. The portents are ominous.

View it from any angle. All the issues which have been highlighted are interrelated and interdependent. They will detract from the Comprehensive National Power of China. Very importantly, China has no control over them. They are autarkic and will run their course in different directions. Issues related to economics, BRI, pollution, food security, energy security, environment, and climate change have not been factored in. Many of these issues were analysed in an earlier article. Everyone talks of the great military, but most of it can hardly be used. This is the great superpower which we will have to contend with. In a decade our adversary will be old and not rich. I had written about the  Chernobyl factor in an article. I am more than convinced that it will come true. The China we see today will not be China in another five years. China vs China is an interesting battle that is unfolding. India needs to be cognisant of these facts and script a long term strategy to handle the emerging China.     

Lt Gen PR 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 www.gunnersshot.com 

China does not understand another civilisation antithetical to its own in all respects—religion, culture, practices, ethnicities, and politics. A singular and homogeneous China and a heterogeneous and plural India have no common ground. Indian democracy has strengths far beyond the authoritarian CCP. India is a major threat to China in ways beyond our own self-deprecating and dismissive imagination. 

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Defence

ANDAMAN & NICOBAR COMMAND CELEBRATES WORLD HYDROGRAPHY DAY

Ashish Singh

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Lieutenant General Ajai Singh, Commander-in-Chief Andaman & Nicobar Command (CINCAN) participated in commemorating the Centenary of the World Hydrography Day on Monday. The occasion is celebrated by the Hydrographic fraternity of the Indian Navy every year through a series of coordinated events at the respective Commands to spread awareness of hydrography and its contribution in ensuring safe navigation at sea as well as to showcase achievements and contributions of the Indian Naval Hydrographic Organisation. The theme for the event this year is “100 years of International Cooperation in Hydrography”.

The CINCAN appreciated the yeoman service by the Indian Naval Hydrographic Organisation in capacity building initiatives among littorals in the Indian Ocean Region through hydrographic surveys and providing world-class training to personnel from friendly foreign nations. The surveys help in augmenting the Sagarmala project under the NITI Aayog for the sustainable development of A&N Islands.

The Hydrographic Survey Unit at Port Blair under HQ ANC is responsible for the surveys around the A&N Islands and is fully equipped with state-of-the-art equipment for the conduct, analysis and preparation of reports of hydrographic surveys. HSU (PBR) participates in various joint operations with the Indian Army and Indian Air Force within the Andaman and Nicobar Command. The Unit has successfully conducted surveys for RCS 3.0 — UDAN, the prestigious Government of India project under regional connectivity by playing a vital role in identifying suitable seaplane landing sites at four locations in the Andaman group of islands at Shaheed Dweep, Swaraj Dweep, Hut Bay and Long Island, which will boost regional connectivity and tourism.

Indian Navy hydrography ships Sutlej from Southern Naval Command and Nirupak from Eastern Naval Command are currently deployed for hydrographic survey in Andaman and Nicobar Islands since April 2021. These ships utilise state-of-the-art Multi-beam Bathymetric Data Acquisition Systems to survey and update navigational charts of the A&N Islands. All Covid protocol measures were followed by the personnel present at the event.

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Defence

INS SHIVAJI ORGANISES VARIOUS ACTIVITIES TO MARK YOGA DAY

Ashish Singh

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The International Yoga Day celebrates the physical and spiritual prowess that yoga has brought to the world stage. While it is an important source of exercise and healthy activity, there are many benefits of practising yoga daily. This is a useful way to connect the body, mind, and soul in a way that exists for centuries. INS Shivaji undertook various activities towards the celebration of the International Yoga Day at Station Lonavla from 19 to 21 June. Keeping Covid-19 protocols in mind, a yoga workshop and seminar for personnel and trainee officers and sailors in the cohort group was conducted by a qualified yoga instructor.

As part of virtual yoga practice, yoga sessions were conducted for Naval personnel as available in the Namaste Yoga app launched by the Government of India. Personnel and families also undertook yoga sessions offered by the Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga at their respective residences. Quiz and essay competitions were conducted for trainee sailors to educate them about the importance of yoga in daily life. To enlighten the significance of yoga, home guidelines and a list of digital resources available in the open network were uploaded on the unit LAN/website. Towards awareness of daily yoga practice, banners with the theme “Be with Yoga, Be at Home” were displayed at prominent locations.

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Defence

NORTHERN COMMAND CELEBRATES YOGA DAY

Ashish Singh

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Amidst strict Covid-19 protocols, yoga camps were organised on the occasion of International Yoga Day on Monday in all Army formations and units of Northern Command across the entire UTs of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh including “Siachen Glacier”, the highest battlefield. All ranks & families attended the Yoga camps with great enthusiasm. A number of aasanas, pranayama, and dhyan were practised and their benefits towards health and in disease prevention were shared by qualified Yoga instructors.

The theme ‘Yoga for well-being’ with the aim to promote the holistic health of troops was emphasised. The Covid-19 crisis has caused psychophysical, emotional and physical impact on the people across all ages in the country. Our troops have been successfully kept shielded from such effects to a great extent as a result of practicing Yoga on regular basis despite all challenges. The celebration of International Yoga Day is a reminder for all ranks to incorporate yoga in daily routine for a happy and stress free life.

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Defence

HOW INDIAN NAVY CELEBRATED 7TH INTERNATIONAL YOGA DAY

Ashish Singh

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The International Day of Yoga was celebrated at Western Naval Command (WNC), Eastern Naval Command (ENC), and Southern Naval Command (SNC).

The International Yoga Day was celebrated at WNC, with all serving naval personnel including Defence Security Corps (DSC), the Military Engineer Services (MES), Defence Civilian Employees and their family members enthusiastically participating in the 7th International Day of Yoga on the theme ‘Be with Yoga, Be At Home’.

An online yoga session was conducted under the aegis of the Navy Wives Welfare Association (Western Region) for the naval community in South Mumbai to encourage all personnel and their family members to practise yoga regularly for bolstering their health and boosting immunity, especially in these trying times. Various asanas were demonstrated through digital platforms and replicated by the enthusiastic participants. Additionally, all sea-going units in the WNC also took part in celebrating the day by conducting yoga sessions at the unit level, both at sea and in harbour, with due observance of all Covid protocols. Yoga has been formally assimilated into the Navy’s physical fitness regime and had been found to be beneficial to men at sea given the paucity of space onboard ships.

The International Yoga Day was celebrated by all units under ENC, where naval personnel including Defence Security Corps, Defence Civilian Employees and their family members enthusiastically participated in the Yoga Day on the theme ‘Yoga For Wellness’ on Monday. All units under the ENC spread across the Eastern Seaboard from West Bengal to Tamil Nadu participated in various yoga-related activities.

All participants practised yoga asanas at their respective residences/units in accordance with the guidelines promulgated by released by the Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India with strict adherence to Covid protocols. The yoga sessions included standing and sitting yoga postures, pranayama — breathing techniques followed by meditation. Ships of the ENC on Mission Deployments at high seas across the Indian Ocean region participated in the Yoga sessions in the true spirit of Yoga Day.

International Yoga Day was celebrated at SNC, where Naval personnel including Defence Security Corps (DSC), The Military Engineer Services (MES), Defence Civilian Employees and their family members enthusiastically participated in the Yoga Day celebrations . Vice Admiral AK Chawla, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief (FOC-in-C), SNC and Mrs Sapana Chawla joined families of Southern Naval Command in a virtual yoga session.

Simple and easy to do asanas were demonstrated on a digital platform and replicated by the participants in accordance with the guidelines on the Namaste Yoga app and by the Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga at their respective residences. The yoga session included standing and sitting yoga postures, pranayama and breathing techniques. It was followed by meditation techniques, based on the common Yoga protocols released by the Ministry of AYUSH, Government of India. All units under SNC spread across different states of India also participated in various yoga-related activities. Special yoga-related quizzes, posters, essay competitions and lectures by yoga experts for adopting yoga as a way of life were also organised. Towards spreading awareness of daily yoga practice, banners with the theme were displayed at prominent locations along with the distribution of yoga mats with International Yoga Day logos to encourage more personnel to take up yoga.

Various ships under the Southern Naval Command on mission deployed at high seas across the Indian Ocean region and beyond, in the true spirit of International Yoga Day, participated in the yoga sessions. Vice Admiral AK Chawla encouraged SNC Parivar to practice yoga regularly and to make yoga a way of life.

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Defence

EASTERN FLEET AWARDS FUNCTION TO RECOGNISE OPERATIONAL ACHIEVEMENTS

Ashish Singh

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Fleet Awards Function 2021 was held to celebrate the operational achievements of the Eastern Fleet during the last year. Fleet Awards Function marks the culmination of the Operational Cycle of the Eastern Fleet and recognises accomplishments of the ‘Sword Arm’ of the Eastern Naval Command (ENC). Vice Admiral Ajendra Bahadur Singh, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief ENC was the Chief Guest at the event hosted by Rear Admiral Tarun Sobti, Flag Officer Commanding Eastern Fleet.

As compared to previous years, the Fleet Awards Function was held as a modest event with full observance of COVID protocols. The function culminated with the distribution of sixteen coveted trophies covering the overall spectrum of maritime operations. INS Sahyadri was adjudged as the Best Ship of the Eastern Fleet amongst Capital ships, INS Kamorta as the Most Spirited Ship for displaying indomitable spirit and grit whilst undertaking a plethora of challenging missions and Best Corvette trophy as won by IN Ships Kiltan and Khukri amongst Corvettes and similar classes of ships.

The year gone by was a challenging one for the Sunrise Fleet. Even as the COVID pandemic gripped the world, Eastern Fleet went about its operational responsibilities and maintained a forward active posture. Sustaining high operational tempo, the Fleet ships participated in numerous operations, exercises, and humanitarian assistance missions. The Eastern Fleet ships participated in several major bilateral and multilateral exercises such as Malabar-20, La Perouse, PASSEX with various navies and undertook Op Sahayam and Mission Sagar for delivery of HADR stores and Op Samudra Setu for evacuation of stranded Indian citizen from overseas. In the second wave of COVID-19 as Op Samudra Setu II, Eastern Fleet ships acted as the mainstay for enhancing oxygen delivery to the Eastern seaboard emphasising its role as a professional and credible force.

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