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Need to remodel security strategy for peaceful growth

Maj Gen S.B. Asthana (Retd.)

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India does not have any direct threat from other neighbouring countries, but has to remain cautious of developments by adversaries trying to maximize their influence. Irritants like the border issue with Nepal over Kalapani will have to be dealt with patience as there could be some mid-course correction indigenously. India will have to continue its ‘Neighbours First’ policy to prevent them from slipping away into the Chinese orbit. In 2021, we can expect closer ties with Maldives and Bhutan, who will continue to get assistance from India. Smart diplomacy will be required in dealing with Bangladesh, as it is in India’s interest to support Sheikh Hasina and collectively find solutions to mutual concerns (including Rohingyas and the water dispute) which affect both countries. Similarly, in the case of Myanmar, the issues of the Rohingyas and better connectivity will have to be worked out with proactive diplomacy, highlighting Chinese assertiveness and interference in their internal affairs versus the co-operative model offered by India. Connectivity projects like a Trilateral Highway to countries in Southeast Asia will need a greater push, in collaboration with Japan and the US.

INTERNAL SECURITY CHALLENGES

Kashmir: The success of recent local body elections, post the abrogation of Articles 370 and 35a, and the relatively lesser frequency of terror activities are positive indicators, but there is no room for complacency as Pakistan will redouble its efforts to ignite violence in the Kashmir Valley by some major terror attack, which needs to be prevented. Incidentally, Jammu, Ladakh and some parts of Kashmir will continue to be peaceful and only a handful of districts sympathetic to militants may be prone to terror actions. In 2021, it is expected that terrorists supported by Pakistan will make a few more attempts to derail inclusive growth and the development process, till the new UTs are mentally accepted by adversely affected politicians and interest groups as a reality and new normal to progress forward. Legally, the conviction of separatists must happen, because temporary arrests do not matter to them. Unless visible effects of inclusive growth and better governance appear under the reorganised system, the security forces will have to continue fighting terrorists (foreign as well as local) because the terror industry will continue to be lucrative. The challenges of the security forces in terror operations will continue to be stone pelters (to a reduced degree), false allegations and some segments of human right organizations, the legal fraternity and politicians using them to their advantage.

North Eastern India: In case of the prolonged standoff and adversarial relations with China, there is a possibility of the Chinese trying to re-ignite insurgency in the Northeast Region (NER), although it may not be as easy as it was a few decades back. With improvement in efforts for inclusive growth in NER, India can hope for some crucial agreements, improvement of infrastructure with implementation of many projects and a decline in insurgency. Except for some parts of Manipur and adjoining areas, the region is showing a keenness to grow. With friendly governments in power in adjoining countries, the North East may not pose a major security concern. It may face a temporary law and order problem due to some internal reforms, resulting in aggressive politics, but these would be surmountable from a security point of view.

The Red Corridor/Naxalites: The problem in these areas relates to poor governance and its intensity will increase or decrease depending upon the quality of governance provided. There have been changes in the government in some affected states. Depending upon the governance provided by them and the lessons learnt from past incidences by the security forces operating there, the magnitude of the problem can be expected to vary in 2021. The police forces dealing with it need to have modern equipment and training, including leadership training, at the grass roots level.

New dimensions of security: Health security has become a major security challenge with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, as the control measures affect the economy, livelihoods and lifestyles adversely, besides human life at large. Considering the population density of India, efforts so far have done well to get over the threats. With the largest vaccination program in the world commencing, India can hope to prevent the second wave of the infection. The past year also exposed the vulnerabilities of the democracies of the world: the possibility of the politicisation of peaceful protests, the wrong use of the right to speech, and the hijacking of protests by anti-national elements. India, like other democracies, will have to struggle to contain these, but with India-specific solutions. The digital and economic encroachment by China and some technological giants is also posing a new security threat, including data security. It is understandable that the economic and digital decoupling cannot be done abruptly and Indian dependence on the Chinese supply chain restricts some Indian options, but a speedy process to get out of this handicap will have to be adopted. India needs to formulate strict policies and laws, and see through their implementation, to counter digital and economic threats, besides continuing its ongoing efforts towards self-reliance.

WHAT SHOULD BE THE INDIAN RESPONSE TO THESE SECURITY CHALLENGES?

With the prolonged ongoing standoff with China, the clouds of a ‘Two Front War’ are hanging over India, and preparing for it is not a choice, but a compulsion, although it may/may not happen in 2021. The only way to avoid a ‘Two Front War’ for India is to convince the potential adversaries that India is capable of fighting it successfully. This convincing has to be backed by building and proving the capability to do so, and India seems to be working on it with unprecedented speed, fast-tracking procurements and boosting the indigenous production of necessary equipment through Aatmanirbhar Bharat, besides the tough stance by the Forces on the borders.

The hopes of reaching any agreement on disengagement and de-escalation based on mutual and equal security does not give much promise after the failure of multiple rounds of diplomatic and military commanders’ talks. There is no guarantee that any agreement, even if arrived at, will be implemented by China, based on their recent track record. Most importantly, so far, the LAC has not been demarcated. A temporary solution will only postpone the next standoff and may lead to the LoCization of the LAC. It may be prudent not to run into any quick-fix solutions, but to create conditions for a long-lasting strategic solution. The standoff can re-occur, whenever India does anything like infrastructure development on the borders, which does not suit Chinese interests, or when China needs to increase domestic support by generating a spirit of nationalism amidst growing dissent to CCP. India, therefore, needs to increase the cost of war for China and Pakistan by a multi-pronged strategy. Smart diplomacy is needed to collaborate with democracies and groupings for collective security, synergising Indian interests with others facing the heat of Chinese expansionism.

India needs to pose a threat to Chinese vulnerabilities in the maritime domain in collaboration with other friendly navies. Strategies will have to draw out the PLA Navy out of its comfort zone in the South/East China Sea into the Indian Ocean where its sea lines of communication (SLOC) face maximum vulnerability. Aggressive military posturing should continue to match Chinese aggression in the Indo-Pacific region to ensure that its military assets are distributed in defending every military installation/base it has created everywhere. It will also be in India’s interest to be in sync with the stance of global democracies to withstand Chinese expansionism in the Indo-Pacific region, where Chinese sea lines of communications are vulnerable, rather than be seen compromising with China on a bilateral basis, thus reducing its global pressure by dropping one friction point to China’s advantage too soon.

India needs to realise that defence capabilities take decades of consistent effort, more so if it does not have a strong manufacturing base. ‘Make in India’ and self-reliance are essential, but time consuming; hence, it must continue simultaneously with new procurements with transfer of technology. The defence budget allocation made in 2020 will have to substantially increase in 2021 in the interest of national security. Chanakya, Clauswitz and Sun Tzu have all said that no nation can expect to become great and secure unless it has a powerful military which can deter a potential adversary. Unless Pakistan is deterred, the proxy war will continue; hence, India needs to improve its capability to exercise its ‘proactive’ intent. If the capability exists, then intentions can change overnight, which makes the adversary jittery.

We also need to deal with domestic enemies firmly. The recent aggressive protests over some of the reforms, which have grabbed media headlines, are more of law and order issues, but the issue of illegal immigrants/infiltrators who are a security risk will continue to be of grave concern and needs to be checked. The challenges of digital and economic encroachment will have to be met by robust rules and policies governing them and their effective implementation. We need to remodel the Security Strategy to meet these challenges, if we want “peaceful inclusive growth” with minimum security-related distractions. We can thus hope for a stronger and secure India in 2021.

This is the concluding article of a three-part series.

Maj Gen S B Asthana (retd) is a strategic and security analyst, a veteran Infantry General with 40 years of experience in national and international fields and the UN. The views expressed are personal.

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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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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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