Pakistan’s leading newspaper Dawn, quoting the Foreign Office (FO), reported that “Mr (Imran) Khan would visit Sri Lanka from February 23 to 24 on the invitation of Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa. He would be accompanied on the trip by some federal ministers and senior officials. This will be Mr Khan’s first visit to Sri Lanka after assuming the office of prime minister. Mr Khan would be meeting President Gotabaya Rajapaksa and Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa during the visit.”
Imran Khan has his hands full during the visit. The bilateral talks would cover multiple issues including trade and investment, and defence and security. The newspaper went on to add that during the visit, the reconstitution of the Sri Lanka-Pakistan Parliamentary Friendship Association will be announced to further promote parliamentary exchanges between the two countries. The Pakistan PM would also participate in a joint trade and investment conference.
But what has come as a surprise is that Sri Lanka has cancelled the address by the Pakistan PM to the Sri Lankan Parliament quoting Covid protocols, which seem to be just a cover up. It is believed that Sri Lanka has cancelled this event since it was apprehended that PM Khan would have raised the issue of Kashmir and also the plight of Sri Lankan Muslims in the island nation during his speech in the Parliament. Mention of Kashmir in the Sri Lankan Parliament by PM Khan would have certainly annoyed India, especially since Indo-Sri Lankan relations have come under slight strain due to the cancellation of the contract to develop the East Colombo Port Terminal. The other reason was probably to avoid even greater embarrassment just in case the Pakistan PM would have raised the plight of Sri Lankan Muslims in a Buddhist-majority country. The Muslims in Sri Lanka have been agitating over the Sri Lankan government order insisting Muslims to cremate the body of a Covid-affected death instead of burying them. Muslims also feel that Buddhist monks are spreading anti-Muslim propaganda and hatred amongst the common public.
IMPLICATIONS FOR INDIA
Pakistan had enjoyed robust and friendly relations with Sri Lanka in the first decade of the 21st century as it had provided a host of defence weapon systems to the island nation including MBRLS (Multi Barrel Rocket Launchers) in 2009 to crush the LTTE. The military-to-military ties were also very strong during this period with a number of Sri Lankan officers attending courses in Pakistan. In fact, the current President was commissioned in Pakistan academy. The China-Pakistan nexus during this period had managed to ensure that Indo-Sri Lankan relations remained at best lukewarm.
The cancellation of the Pakistan PM’s speech to the Parliament would also have embarrassed China. Beijing has spared no effort to wean away India from its friendly neighbours, either directly or through its proxy, Pakistan. With China now firmly established in Hambantota Port, any presence of India in Sri Lanka that too along with its other arch-rival Japan for Infrastructure development such as the Colombo port terminal will adversely impact the “String of Pearls” strategy of China. It would therefore be in India and Japan’s interest to accept the alternative offered by Sri Lanka to develop the West Port Terminal instead of the East Port Terminal; especially when the India-Japan stakes in the project would be 85%.
The visit was also slated to discuss defence and security issues, however, there are feelers coming out of Sri Lanka that defence and security matters are not going to be taken up. If true, this is a welcome development and once again will rattle China more than Pakistan. Pakistan is already staring down the barrel of FATF which is currently meeting in Paris to discuss its fate. Indian diplomatic efforts have more or less convinced the majority of the member nations barring few like China about Pakistan’s continued involvement in terror funding. Sri Lanka would not like to be seen as actively involved with Pakistan in defence and security matters, especially in this backdrop. Most indications suggest the likelihood of Pakistan continuing in the “grey list”, unless its all-weather friend China pulls a rabbit out of its hat to convince the FATF members to take Pakistan off from the grey list.
This leaves Pakistan with a very limited and rather unimpressive agenda to pursue with Sri Lanka during Imran Khan’s visit. Even in the field of trade and investment, Pakistan has really nothing major to offer with its economy being heavily debt-ridden and the World Bank and IMF restricting foreign aid. The only area was defence equipment, which seems unlikely to be taken up. It will once again be depending on China for any trade-related deals and investments in Sri Lanka.
Hawkish and apprehensive attitude of Pakistan by continuously raising anti-India rhetoric on Kashmir, internal affairs of India and upgradation of defence capability of India is only bringing down its image in the eyes of the international community. Unless it genuinely works to rein in the terrorists and stop the anti-India rhetoric it will continue to remain in the grey list of FATF, besides losing face. While the final outcome of the visit will be decided only on completion of the visit by the Pakistan PM to Sri Lanka, the indication till now suggests that the first round has gone to India. The visit is likely to not only demotivate Pakistani people but also unsettle China for having failed to secure its interests in Sri Lanka through Pakistan.
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. The views expressed are personal.
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BRO restores connectivity to 13 border villages of Uttarakhand
New Delhi: A 200-feet Bailey Bridge, built by the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) in Reini Village on Joshimat-Malari road across the Rishiganga River was thrown open for public on 3 March. With this, BRO has restored connectivity, in a record time of 26 days, to the 13 border villages of Uttarakhand’s Chamoli district that were cut off due flash floods on 7 February earlier this year.
DG BRO Lt Gen Rajeev Chaudhry lauded the efforts of the personnel of 21 Border Roads Task Force (BRTF) of Project Shivalik and the Chief Engineer Project, Shivalik and his team of Karma Yogis who worked round-the-clock to achieve this feat. He said that BRO has named that bridge as ‘The Bridge of Compassion’ as a tribute to the fallen karmayogis of Renie Power Plant & NTPC Power Plant. He thanked the state government for providing support and assistance to BRO in completing this difficult task.
On 7 February, the Glacial lake outburst flood (GLOF) in Rishiganga River had washed away a 90-metre RCC Bridge near Reini Village on Joshimat-Malari road. The bridge was the only link to Niti Border in Chamoli district. The GLOF had also washed away a hydro-electric plant located at the same site. More than 200 workers of the hydro-electric plant were trapped.
The BRO swung into action by deploying 20 small teams consisting of 200 personnel of 21 BRTF under Project Shivalik in the affected area for relief and rehabilitation work. More than 100 vehicles/equipment and plants that included 15 Heavy Earth Moving equipment/machinery like Hydraulic Excavators, Dozers, JCBs and Wheel Loaders etc were pressed into service. BRO also inducted critical equipment with the help of Indian Air Force.
The task was very challenging due to the steep cliff on far bank and 25-30 metres debris/muck on the home bank and non-availability of working space on either side.
Army inaugurates community radio station in North Kashmir
New Delhi: The first of its kind in North Kashmir, Community Radio Station with the tagline “Radio Chinar 90.4, Har Dil Ki Dhadkan” was inaugurated by the Indian Army for the Awam in Mazbug, Sopore.
The Radio Station was inaugurated by Lt Gen B.S. Raju, General Officer Commanding Chinar Corps in presence of Maj Gen HS Sahi, General Officer Commanding Kilo Force & various Army and civil dignitaries. The reach of the Community Radio Station will be Sopore, Bandipora and Baramulla districts.
This Community Radio Station has been started with an aim to revitalise the connect within different segments of the community. This will provide a good platform for a community dialogue, sharing of information, art & culture. It will build a community environment, which is better connected with issues which are local and important to the community.
This Community Radio Station will be highlighting & showcasing the hidden talent of North Kashmir, especially local entrepreneurs, musicians, sportsman and artists to the Awam of Kashmir and the rest of the world.
The Community Radio Station is being run by local Radio Jockeys from North Kashmir who have themselves come forward to contribute in this noble cause. It also provides a platform for people of all age groups to share their experiences & also to spread awareness about drug abuse and other social causes. The Community Radio Station will also be available on social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube and Internet Radio so as to provide uninterrupted service to a wider audience.
During the inauguration ceremony, Lt Gen B.S. Raju, General Officer Commanding Chinar Corps, dedicated the Community Radio Station, Sopore, to the peace and development of Kashmir.
DRDO CONDUCTS SUCCESSFUL FLIGHT TEST OF SOLID FUEL DUCTED RAMJET
New Delhi: Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) successfully carried out a flight demonstration based on Solid Fuel Ducted Ramjet (SFDR) technology from Integrated Test Range Chandipur off the coast of Odisha at around 1030 hrs on Friday. All the subsystems, including the booster motor and nozzle-less motor, performed as expected. During the test, many new technologies were proven, including Solid Fuel based Ducted Ramjet technology.
Successful demonstration of Solid Fuel based Ducted Ramjet technology has provided DRDO with a technological advantage which will enable it to develop long range air-to-air missiles. At present, such technology is available only with a handful of countries in the world. During the test, air launch scenario was simulated using a booster motor. Subsequently, the nozzle-less booster accelerated it to the required Mach number for Ramjet operation.
The performance of the missile was monitored using the data captured by Electro Optical, Radar and Telemetry instruments deployed by ITR and confirmed successful demonstration of the mission objectives. The launch was monitored by senior scientists of various DRDO labs, including Defence Research & Development Laboratory (DRDL), Research Centre Imarat (RCI) and High Energy Materials Research Laboratory (HEMRL).
Defence Minister Rajnath Singh congratulated the scientists of DRDO, Indian Air Force and the Industry on the successful flight test of SFDR.Secretary Department of Defence R&D and Chairman DRDO Dr G. Satheesh Reddy also congratulated the team involved in the successful flight test.
THE PROBLEM OF A PERENNIALLY PERTURBED PAKISTAN
Time has come for Pakistan to sincerely try to look beyond its understandable paranoia, quit meaningless sabre-rattling, and come to the high-table with India.
NEW DELHI: Pakistani Foreign Minister, Shah Mehmood Qureshi recently expressed concern over what he construed as India’s adoption of “belligerent and aggressive policies” manifesting as “acquisition of advanced naval weapons technology from Western partners”. According to him, these developments will raise the chances of conflict in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).Even an undergraduate student of Geopolitics will hold that the Pakistani Minister’s concerns are not only misinformed, but grossly exaggerated.
It is true that Indian influence in the Indian Ocean Region has grown from strength to strength over the last few decades, both quantitatively, and in terms of the matrix of capabilities it has built for itself. This is attributable to induction of newer, more complex platforms, as well as widening of range of operations and partners in the IOR. However, a key tenet underpinning India’s growth story in the IOR is that India happens to be a responsible democracy, and its vision of itself, and of its neighbours is driven by what Indian PM Narendra Modi articulated in March, 2015 as SAGAR or Security and Growth for all in the Region.
As part of SAGAR, India has continually assisted countries in the IOR with missions such as Exclusive Economic Zone surveillance, Search and Rescue, Hydrographic survey assistance, and other collaborative activities aimed at capability enhancement and capacity building of partner nations thereby enhancing interoperability and synergy. Recent high-level visits by External Affairs Minister Dr S. Jaishankar to Seychelles and UAE, and Gen M.M. Naravane, the Indian Army Chief’s visit to Saudi Arabia and UAE, as well as greater thrust on initiatives such as BIMSTEC, and ASEAN are part of the larger Indian engagement in the region. Likewise, over the last few years, the Indian Navy has also firmly established itself as the Preferred Security Partner in the region, and has undertaken three Covid-related outreach Missions in 2020 to provide food and medical aid; SAGAR-I to five IOR nations, SAGAR-II to four East African nations and SAGAR-III to three South-East Asian nations. More such missions are sure to follow.
Recently, India also embarked on the ‘Vaccine Maitri’ initiative, which means ‘Vaccine friendship’ entailing supply of its indigenously designed and manufactured Covid-19 vaccines to partner countries. The initiative started with countries in India’s immediate neighbourhood—key partner nations in the Indian Ocean—and the outreach very soon extended to countries in Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.
Through its Navy, India today participates in 17 bilateral and 8 multilateral exercises with partner nations. The Indian Ocean Naval Symposium or IONS, an Indian initiative started in 2008, is an open and inclusive forum of more than 30 IOR navies today. In fact, the India hosted the IONS Working Group meeting on Information Sharing and Interoperatability from 17-18 Feb 21 at New Delhi, which was attended by 9 partner countries, including Pakistan.
In this regard, Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of the Naval Staff, had stated on the eve of Navy Day (04 Dec) last year that “we are ready to work with like-minded nations in the region”, and that “India is playing a stabilising role in the Indo-Pacific region”. In another context, India’s commitment to peace and stability in the region and commitment to rule-based order—both at land and at sea, as well as preservation of its own interest, have adequately been reflected in the manner in which the prolonged India-China face-off has been maturely diffused and deescalated. Given these on-ground facts, it becomes quite evident that the Pakistani Foreign Ministers’ and the Pakistani government’s concerns are not only ill-founded, but also lacking in any credible logic. Perhaps, something more than general paranoia assails the Pakistani Minister’s remarks.
Pakistan recently concluded its biennial maritime exercise, Aman-21. It would be significant to bring out that even though 40+ countries participated in it, experts from various quarters have cast doubts on the ethical foundation of the Exercise itself, given Pakistan’s longstanding baggage as a prime financier, breeder and exporter of terror in the region.
It would merit attention that compared to India, Pakistan neither has the muscular hardware to position itself as a Blue Water force, nor does it have deep-rooted friendships, such as the recently forged and continually strengthening Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between India, US, Japan and Australia. Also, while Pakistan conducts one odd feel-good exercise in two-years, India’s engagements with other IOR countries is a round-the-clock affair encompassing Fleet Reviews, Security and Joint Exercises, Transfer of hardware and training, High-level visits, and dialogues on a routine basis, all aimed at promoting inclusivity and stability in the region.
In light of these facts, Pakistan’s one-point agenda, perennial paranoia, and its insecurities, arising from its awareness of these disheartening capability asymmetries, are understandable. However, Pakistan must sincerely try to look beyond its understandable paranoia, quit meaningless sabre-rattling, and come to the high-table, firmly believing that while aggression maybe the first reply of the weak, restraint is always the first resort of the strong.
Assam Regimental Centre conducts attestation parade in Shillong
The Assam Regimental Centre held attestation parade of 331 batch in Meghalaya’s Shillong. 225 Recruits have now been attested in a scintillating ceremony conducted at Parson Parade Ground. The parade was reviewed by Major General P.S. Behl, Colonel of “The Assam Regt and Arunachal Scouts”. The ceremony was conducted with Covid-19 protocols.
The ceremonial attestation parade marks the completion of the training schedule for recruits in The Assam Regimental Centre. These young soldiers will be joining Assam Regiment Units at various locations.
Major General P.S. Behl, the Chief Guest and reviewing officer of attestation parade extolled the virtues of selfless service to the nation and recounted the contributions of the North East and Assam Regiment towards nation building. Complimenting the passing out batch for their immaculate standards, he exhorted the warriors from the North East to persevere in pursuit of excellence.
The reviewing officer also complemented the staff for having conducted the training following Covid protocols and using innovative methods which will help the young soldiers in serving the motherland in efficient manner. Swaying to the tilting tune of the Regimental song, the young soldiers erupted in joyous to mark on a successful transition from enthusiastic recruits to valiant soldiers.
Passing out parade of 58 Gorkha Training Centre
The passing out parade of Recruits of 58 Gorkha Training Centre was held at Happy Valley, Shillong. The passing out parade marks the culmination of rigorous Recruit training and completes the transformation of a determined recruit into a young soldier of the Indian Army.
In an impressive ceremony marked by immaculate turnout and precision marching, a total of 248 Recruits took ‘Oath of Affirmation’. These young soldiers will now be dispatched to the numerous locations of Indian Army, always dedicated to protect our Motherland whenever the need arises.
The parade was reviewed by Brigadier M Narendranath Sajan, Commandant 58 Gorkha Training Centre wherein he exhorted the Young Soldiers to strive to be the finest of Indian Army and congratulated them on this important juncture of their life. During his address, the Commandant stressed upon the importance of valour, honour, ethos & fine traditions of Indian Army.
He also complemented the staff for having conducted the training following Covid protocols and using innovative methods which will help the Young Soldiers in serving the Country in more efficient manner. In the presentation ceremony Recruit Abhishek Sakia was awarded the Overall Best Recruit & Recruit of 8 GR and Recruit Manish Ale Magar was awarded Best Recruit of 5 GR (FF).
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