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PITCH STRENGTH AGAINST PLA WEAKNESS

This article is pitched for unit level officers to understand PLA troops better to defeat them in battle tomorrow.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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The Sino-Indian face-off has recessed from an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation to a military stalemate. However, the issue remains unresolved since the bulk of forces are still there. India cannot trust China one bit. Reflag-ration of hostilities cannot be ruled out. While the military stalemate can be construed as a victory, India should be prepared to confront the PLA again. When that happens, PLA should get more than a bloody nose. Many will think that I am putting my foot in the mouth. However, if we fight smart, we should be able to forcibly tuck their tails between their legs.  Fighting smart is all about focusing on weaknesses. The PLA is a well-equipped Army, with global ambitions operating with better infrastructure. Taking it head on is foolish. Matching it shoulder to shoulder or getting involved in head butting is the worst option. In one simple sentence—pitch our strengths against PLA weaknesses. Some weaknesses were exhibited during the faceoff, some were lying dormant awaiting exposure, some were camouflaged by Chinese propaganda and halo building. 

THE QEDS OF THE FACE-OFF 

The face-off has revealed a few things. The PLA is under-par in the Himalayas and the IOR. Next. The space for conventional action between nuclear powers is extremely limited and thresholds low. Examine Kargil, Surgical Strikes of 2016, Balakot, Doklam and Eastern Ladakh. As much as there has been violence and belligerence from both sides, war avoidance was the name of the game. Thresholds were deliberately kept low in the garb of being responsible nations. Project this trend line into the future. Confrontation, conflicts and wars with China are most likely to be localised, small scale, sharp manoeuvres and encounters to gain military and political ascendancy. Hitherto fore, PLA donned a halo of invincibility, which was rudely broken in Eastern Ladakh. The comprehensive strength of a nation is or the capability of its armed forces does not matter. What matters is the ability to fight in a set of given conditions. Victory or defeat still depends upon the man on ground. The Russians, Americans, French, Chinese and we ourselves have been taught this lesson rudely by the Mujahideen, Taliban, Vietcong and LTTE. We should never ever forget such basics in the hubris of modernisation and technology. Lastly, care should be taken when transposing  lessons from the Gulf Wars and the recent Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict on to a Sino- Indian or a Indo-Pak scenario. They were conflicts between unequal opponents in a non-nuclear setting. 

THE PLA 

There is no doubt in my mind that the PLA is a well-equipped, well-trained, well-disciplined and an aggressive force. It has demonstrated tremendous capability to mobilise and achieve the first mover advantage. It is fully backed by a well-oiled state machinery which is ambitious and responsive. Where are the chinks in this armoury, which we can exploit?

TERRAIN

A Sino-Indian military confrontation will invariably be in high altitudes. The evidence as it is emerging is that PLA does not adopt well to that terrain. It is one thing to acclimatise in High altitude and another thing to fight there. The PLA has not acquitted itself well on both counts. The PLA appears to be road/track bound and not capable of manoeuvre. Mountains offer scope for tremendous manoeuvre. If occupying Kailash Range  heights from within own territory can spook the PLA, imagine their consternation if key heights are occupied in their rear by infiltration.  Further , the Himalayan terrain is dual toned. While the Tibetan side is relatively flat and easy, the Indian side is craggy, tough and inhospitable. The required skill sets are different. The PLA has demonstrated that it does not yet have the skill sets to operate on our side which requires a hardiness of the old kind. 

TIBETAN DEMOGRAPHY 

The Tibetan demography remains a major weakness for the PLA. Despite a lot of publicity and effort at Han-isation of Tibet, the Hans remain only between 5-10% of the population.These are in major population centres and constitute government officials, project workers and  PLA. Most of them are transients and not permanent to Tibet. Across the LAC there is almost no Han settlement. PLA is in alien land with very less local rooting. While a lot is being made that a Tibetan uprising is no more possible, an incipient insurgency remains on the cards.  Adequate local support can be generated. We do not need a mass uprising. We need to develop the Second WW ‘Resistance’ kind of capability enough to force the PLA into a 360-degree warfare in their rear areas. Make PLA hunt for ghosts in the rear.  

IOR

The PLA does not have bases to operate in the IOR. Bases are not merely ports with refuelling facilities. Bases imply maintenance, refit, repair, victualising, stationing of troops, ammunition stocking, and security of air, land and sea forces. Without these facilities, the PLA will be in no position to dominate the IOR. At present, the only base from where PLA can operate is Karachi, after Pakistan is arm-twisted. Gwadar is far away from being a base. If we can ‘deny’ bases to PLA through geo-strategic moves, we will be in good space.               

CHINESE DEMOGRAPHY 

Mao believed that “a contest of strength is not only a contest of military and economic power, but also a contest of human power and morale”. In this context the outcomes of the one-child policy need focus. Today any one above fifty in the PLA will invariably be a single child—presumably brigade commanders and below. At least 70-80% of PLA soldiers are from one-child families including combat troops. The single child ‘Little Emperors’ are described as spoilt, selfish and often not tough enough to withstand military discipline. They also lack human qualities, hurt readiness and cohesion. Further, ‘single child’ soldiers have huge dependencies—grandparents, parents and child. Hence fearlessness, sacrifice, loss of life and limb is suspect. The ‘single child’ leadership will also be risk and causality averse. Poor teams with poor leaders make for fragility at unit level! PLA publications suggest that leaders remain somewhat stymied about how to inculcate the younger generation with PLA values. This is not a flaw but a schism waiting to be exploited—psychologically and physically. If Steve Waugh and the Oz could mentally ‘disintegrate’ opponents on a cricket pitch, so can we on the battle field. PLAs inability to absorb casualties and recuperate from them has been demonstrated internationally.  Read the Wall Street Journal article titled “China Discovers the Price of Global Power: Soldiers Returning in Caskets”. Also, in the Galwan clash, India declared twenty casualties. Whereas China has declared only four so far. If they had only four casualties as claimed, China would have declared victory and would never have gone back from Galwan. The body language, tone and tenor of PLA changed after the Galwan clash. Very clearly, the shock of their casualties reverberated internally.  Targeting the ‘human power and morale’ will pay handsome dividends. 

INDOCTRINATION

A major part of ‘human power and morale’ of PLA stems from indoctrination as a political organ of CCP. PLA indoctrinates soldiers with the idea that it has won every war it has fought, even when ranged against much larger and more advanced adversaries. This indoctrinated propagandist halo serves to instil fear/coerce enemies as also to build a sense of invincibility within the country, organisation and individual. Such political indoctrination takes time and space away from military training.  A soldier as any human can absorb only that much. The average PLA soldier will be suboptimal and brittle in this bipolar environment. The steadiness of a soldier in battle and under fire is suspect. This is compounded by the fact the PLA lacks battle experience and is often said to have the ‘peace disease’. PLA training is also prone to fudging and there is also mention of ‘micro corruption’ at unit level. This finds mention in the National White Paper on Défense 2019 too. Indoctrination and propaganda of the PLA kind should be made self-defeating.   

LEADERSHIP IN MULTIPLE MISSIONS

The PLA has been assigned multiple missions and roles which include “resisting aggression” (mainly the US, India and Russia), “containing separatist forces” (in Xinjiang and Tibet and deterring Taiwan from declaring independence), “safeguarding border, coastal, and territorial air security” (from state or non-state threats), “projecting power” (safeguarding overseas assets and global dominance) and “protecting national security interests in space and cyberspace”. To this end, the Chinese have been carrying out unrestricted warfare in multiple domains. This concept, increasingly relies, on a hi-tech base along with modern weapon systems. This demands a high degree of decentralised directive control. Conflate this with the fact that PLA is a political tool with a dual-control system by political commissars and field commanders in a highly centralized-decision making environment where decision making, initiative and innovativeness at lower levels is compromised. There is a heavy incongruence emerging in their leadership. 

EXTREME SKILL SETS

The PLA needs three skill sets of a very high order in mutually exclusive areas A. Amphibious landings to annex Taiwan in a cross-straits action (as large a scale and more complex than as the Normandy or Incheon landings) B. Ocean domination through an extensive set of bases with a blue water navy and C. Overcoming an experienced Indian Army in the Himalayan terrain. It does not appear that they have the skill sets,  military leadership or the experience to succeed in these diverse circumstances. Hence they will be suboptimal everywhere. Any attempt at any one will imbalance them and open vulnerabilities for exploitation. Further as they go up the value chain of global responsibility, they will be exposed to hybrid warfare. Most questions will remain unanswered till they bleed and get experienced. Their performance under stress in UN missions has been patchy. They have stayed away from major humanitarian disasters. Recollect. The QUAD was formed from the Tsunami Core Group in which the Navies of India, Australia, Japan and USA cooperated and responded despite their countries being adversely affected. China stayed away from that. Indicates selfishness, cowardice or loner mentality?

MODERNISATION

The PLA has been on a modernisation spree since the past decade. This pace will speed up in the future. This has three effects. Any system in the process of such fast paced changes tends to be unstable. Neither fit with the old nor ready for the new. Secondly all these hi-tech marvels of modern warfare besides being untested in battle will have teething problems on induction. Take them into super high altitudes and they could be super duds. A major part of all hi-tech weapon systems is the demand they place on battle field resources and logistics.  PLA publications also lament an inability to use new equipment properly because the PLA has been receiving so much new equipment in quick succession.  The third aspect of modernisation and adopting hi-tech is the necessity of matching manpower. A conscript army which turns over 20 % of its force annually will have difficulty absorbing  modernisation. If reports are to be believed (and I have no reason to disbelieve them), PLA has lowered physical standards of recruitment to increase technological levels i.e.  lowered  minimum height, raised maximum weight limit and even reduced eyesight standards for recruits. The PLA seems to be laying too much emphasis on technology. Such reliance on technology can be made counterproductive. For instance there is a lot of stress on winning wars under ‘informationised’  conditions. It takes my mind back to my senior command course when I was the Redland commander. The Blue land commanders sought information that I was obliged to give  them as part of a simple and well-crafted deception plan. At the end of the exercise many Bluelanders looked foolish. The short point is if the PLA seeks information we must give it without disappointing them.

NEED OF THE HOUR

The Indian armed forces are well versed with Pakistan. However, that is not the case with PLA. We need to build adequate knowledge about PLA to defeat them. We do not understand PLA enough and as a result we have been overrating it. Extensive combat experience, military ethos combined with ingrained Indian cultural values of comradeship, sacrifice and steadfastness provide Indian Armed Forces with a great innate strength. Late Col Santosh Babu, MVC and his boys demonstrated it in Galwan. I am confident that there are about 1200 more Commanding Officers of our Armed Forces waiting to emulate him if and when the time comes. I have written this article for those Formation, Unit, Ship and Squadron  commanders who will confront the PLA tomorrow. They need  to sit with their sub unit commanders and staff to discuss in detail as to how to get better of the PLA in the next round in air , land or sea. It is possible that I might have missed something out or might be wrong in my assessment. I am open to correction based on individual or collective experience of anyone in the Indian Armed Forces or elsewhere. That experience could be empirical, studied or lived through. Please communicate it to me and I will upgrade this material. The Indian armed forces need to have a handy document on how to attack the enemy weaknesses. I do hope the armed forces disseminate this down to unit level to empower our soldiers to defeat the PLA.

Lt Gen P.R. 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.

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Defence

CADETS OF NCC DIRECTORATE GUJARAT TO BE DEPLOYED AT SURAT IN SUPPORT OF THE CIVIL ADMINISTRATION FOR COMBATING COVID-19 AS PART OF EXERCISE NCC YOGDAN

Ashish Singh

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As the nation is going through the second surge in Covid-19, NCC Cadets of Gujarat Directorate have volunteered to support Civil administration in various activities as part of the Exercise Yogdan II. In response to the requisition from DM Surat, 56 highly motivated Cadets (both boy Cadets and girl Cadets) have volunteered to provide relief efforts and assist in functioning of agencies employed in Covid-19 at Surat. More Cadets of Gujarat Directorate are likely to volunteer as the Exercise Yogdan II commences. Only Senior Division Boys and Senior Wing Girl Cadets of Gujarat Directorate above the age of 18, are being deployed to support the administration as part of NCC Exercise Yogdan II. All the Gujarat Directorate Cadets deployed would be Senior Volunteer Cadets and with proper Covid safety precautions and adequate care. The Cadets have undergone a thorough training on DOs and Dont’s on Covid Protocols before being deployed.

In addition, on announcement of Tika Utsav by the PM , the Cadets of Gujarat Directorate actively participated in spreading awareness about the necessity of getting Vaccinated and following Covid appropriate behaviour, through door to door interaction and circulating a large number of videos and messages on social media. The Directorate General NCC at Delhi has also made provisions to insure the volunteer Cadets adequately. DG NCC at Delhi has been actively involved and focussed in giving the necessary permission for the employment of cadets. Major General Arvind Kapoor ADG, NCC Directorate Gujarat, Dadra Nagar Haveli, Daman & Diu informed that last year during Exercise NCC Yogdan I, Cadets of NCC Directorate Gujarat were deployed in maximum numbers which was highly appreciated by the dignitaries and the people of Gujarat. He further assured that all safety precautions related to Covid -19 will be ensured for the Cadets and staff of Gujarat Directorate employed in Exercise NCC Yogdan II. He also complimented the parents to have come forward and given their consent for the Cadets to be deployed.

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AUSTRALIA ANNOUNCES THE INDO-PACIFIC OCEANS INITIATIVE PARTNERSHIP WITH INDIA

Ashish Singh

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Australia’s High Commissioner to India, Barry O’Farrell AO, launched the Australia-India Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative Partnership (AIIPOIP) grant program to help support a free, open and prosperous Indo-Pacific underpinned by the rule of law and respect for sovereignty. “This AUD 1.4 million (INR 8.12 crore) grant program is a practical initiative to advance Australia and India’s shared vision for the Indo-Pacific”, High Commission O’Farrell said. “Through this program, we are seeking new proposals on how Australia, India and other regional partners can advance our shared maritime objectives”, he added.

 

The AIIPOIP grants program will help deliver practical outcomes under the Indo-Pacific Oceans Initiative (IPOI), launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the 14th East Asia Summit in November 2019. “Australia is proud to be co-leading with India the marine ecology pillar of the IPOI”, High Commissioner O’Farrell said. The first phase of this multi-year grant program will encourage proposals from Australian and Indian stakeholders to share expertise and resources, complementing the work under existing regional mechanisms such as ASEAN, the Indian Ocean Rim Association, and the Pacific Islands Forum. AIIPOIP is an outcome of the Australia-India Joint Declaration on a Shared Vision for Maritime Cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, signed by Australia’s Foreign Minister Senator Marise Payne and India’s External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar in June 2020, as part of the Australia-India Comprehensive and Strategic Partnership Agreement.

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Defence

PROTESTS BY TEHREEK-E-LABBAIK & ONGOING SITUATION IN PAKISTAN

Ashish Singh

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Tehreek-e-Labbaik, Pakistan (TLP) which draws its ideology from the Barelvi sect of Sunni Islam is a far-right Islamist political party in Pakistan, founded by Khadim Hussain Rizvi on 1 August 2015. TLP is known for its countrywide street power and massive protests in opposition to any perceived change to Pakistan’s blasphemy law or disrespect to Allah/Prophet Muhammad. Its first demonstration of street power came to light following the execution of Mumtaz Qadri the bodyguard of Salman Taser, the Governor of Punjab, who killed the Governor for publicly voicing his support for Asia Bibi (Aasiya Noreen). Qadri was hung on 29 February 2016, after which TLP supporters took to the streets across Pakistan, proclaimed him a martyr, chanted anti-government slogans and clashed with the police. A TLP patron, Pir Abdul Qadri, also called for the killing of the Supreme Court justices who ruled on the case and the Army Chief.

TLP, among other extremist religious outfits, was manoeuvred into mainstream politics by the country’s Army brass as one of its tools of political engineering. It was thought that carving out the far-right fringe from the conservative voter base of the PML-N, would damage it in the 2018 general elections, which proved correct & many PML-N candidates lost to PTI, as the voter base of PML-N gravitated towards PTI. Pak Army’s support for TLP was evident during their protest which took place from 8th November 2017, at Faizabad contesting changes in the Elections Bill 2017, demanding resignation of Minister for Law and Justice Zahid Hamid. DG of Punjab Rangers, Major General Azhar Navid Hayat was seen distributing envelopes containing Rs 1,000 notes to the protesters. The ISI then ‘brokered’ a deal between the TLP and the government. Wrapping up the suo-moto case of Faizabad protests, the two bench judge which included Justice Qazi Faez, directed DG ISPR & ISI amongst others to operate within their mandate. The said Judge is now facing various charges of corruption reportedly on the behest of Pak Army & the ISI.

In October 2020, a teacher, Samuel Paty was beheaded in Paris by an Islamist terrorist reportedly for displaying a cartoon of Muhammad. French President Emmanuel Macron defended freedom of expression and the rights to publish such cartoons, after which widespread protests took place in Pakistan, with calls to boycott French products and sever diplomatic ties with France. In November 2020, activists of TLP demanded the expulsion of French Ambassador from Pakistan. The protests were called off on 16 November 2020 after the Government of Pakistan reached an agreement with TLP by seeking more time to discuss the matter in Parliament.

On 11 April 2021, TLP leader Saad Hussain Rizvi (son of founder Khadim Rizvi) released a video message asking TLP activists to launch protests across Pakistan if the government did not expel the French Ambassador from the country by 20 April 2021. On 12th April 2021, after Saad Rizvi was arrested in Lahore, protests broke out across the country, with TLP activists blocking roads and cutting off Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar and Gujranwala from each other. The protests turned violent with reports of stone pelting; at least two people were killed in the riots on 12 April 2021. In addition, TLP claimed that two protesters were shot dead in Faisalabad and Karachi. On 13th April 2021, one police officer was beaten to death by the rioting mob in Lahore, while 40 others were injured. TLP spokesperson Tayyab Rizvi claimed that the number of TLP workers “martyred” in the protests by the second day had increased to 12. A spokesperson of Punjab Police confirmed that two cops were killed by the protesters who used clubs, bricks and firearms to attack them. Paramilitary forces were brought in to assist the local police across various cities including Lahore, Gujranwala, Rawalpindi and Bahawalpur. On 15th April 2021, the French embassy in Pakistan advised French citizens and companies to temporarily leave Pakistan “due to serious threats”. Pak Government formally banned TLP under Anti-Terrorism Law. On 16 April 2021, Pak government blocked several social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and YouTube for around four hours fearing call of protests by TLP. Situation turned extremely violent on 18th April 2021, at Yateem Khana Chowk, Lahore where three people were killed and hundreds of others, including 15 policemen injured in a clash between TLP protestors and police. It was reported that the TLP workers took five policemen, among them a DSP, hostage after an attack on a police station. It has also been reported that the protesters have taken a 50000 litre petrol tanker with them precluding any massive operation against them for fear of collateral damage.

Tanzimat Ahl-e-Sunnat leader Mufti Muneeb-ur-Rehman has called for a nationwide shutter down strike on 19th April 2021, against the Lahore incident. It has also been reported that that the protesters will march with the dead bodies of their colleagues to Islamabad, demanding expulsion of French Ambassador, release of all TLP members jailed in various parts of Pakistan and action against Pak’s Interior Minister Mr Sheikh Rashid. JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman also supported Mufti Muneeb’s call for the shutter down strike showing growing collusive support for the protests among other radical Islamic groups in Pak. The protest that started over a cartoon of Muhammad in France has brought the entire nation to a standstill. The Pak social media is replete with hashtags like #CivilWarInPakistan, #Stop_Gov_Terrorism, #Lahore, #LahoreBurning, #iStandWithTLP, etc.

There have been widespread reports of Pak Army and police personnel defecting from the forces and openly coming out in support of the protesters. The military-intelligence establishment’s pathological obsession with legitimising groups that provide their own warped-version of Islam, has made the foundation of Pakistani society unstable and unpredictable. While PakistaniEstablishment is trying to enforce writ of the Government& present a positive image to the international audience, given its precarious economic condition, the possibility of the ongoing protest looming into a major crisis for Pak cannot be ruled out.

There have been widespread reports of Pak Army and police personnel defecting from the forces and openly coming out in support of the protesters. The military-intelligence establishment’s pathological obsession with legitimising groups that provide their own warped-version of Islam, has made the foundation of Pakistani society unstable and unpredictable.

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INDIAN NAVY SEIZES NARCOTICS WORTH RS 3,000 CRORE

Ashish Singh

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New Delhi: Indian Naval Ship Suvarna, whilst on surveillance patrol in the Arabian Sea, encountered a fishing vessel with suspicious movements. To investigate the vessel, the ship’s team conducted boarding and search operation, which led to the seizure of more than 300 Kgs of narcotics substances. The boat with its crew have been escorted to the nearest Indian Port of Kochi, Kerala for further investigation. The approximate cost the catch in the international market is estimated to be Rs 3,000 crore. This is a major catch not only in terms of the quantity and cost but also from the perspective of disruption of the illegal narcotics smuggling routes, which emanate from the Makran coast and flow towards the Indian, Maldivian and Sri Lankan destinations. Apart from the human costs from drug addiction, the spoils of narcotics trade feed syndicates involved in terrorism, radicalisation and criminal activities.

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RAJNATH SINGH REVIEWS PREPAREDNESS OF MOD AND ARMED FORCES AMID SPIKE IN COVID-19 CASES

The Defence Minister asks them to aid civilian administration to tide over the current coronavirus situation; gives go ahead for emergency procurement of critical medical supplies.

Ashish Singh

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Defence Minister Rajnath Singh held a virtual meeting to review the preparedness of Ministry of Defence and the armed forces to deal with the recent spike in Covid-19 cases across the country, in New Delhi on Tuesday. Defence Secretary Dr Ajay Kumar, Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Karambir Singh, Chief of Army Staff General M.M. Naravane, Director General Armed Forces Medical Services (AFMS) Surgeon Vice Admiral Rajat Datta, Secretary (Defence Production) Raj Kumar, Secretary Department of Defence R&D and Chairman Defence Research and Development Organisation Dr G. Satheesh Reddy, Financial Adviser (Defence Services) Sanjiv Mittal and other senior civil & military officers attended the meeting via video conferencing.

Rajnath Singh was briefed about the measures taken by AFMS, DRDO, Defence Public Sector Undertakings (DPSUs), Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) and other organisations of Ministry of Defence such as National Cadet Corps (NCC) in providing aid to the civil administration in this hour of crisis. The Defence Minister was informed that a COVID care centre established by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is active in Bengaluru assisting the civil administration. He was informed that arrangements are being made by the DPSUs to buy oxygen plants that will help them in production of oxygen cylinders at a faster pace. The Defence Minister asked the DPSUs, OFB and DRDO to work on war footing to provide oxygen cylinders and extra beds to civil administration/state governments at the earliest. Rajnath Singh called upon the Armed Forces to be in close contact with the state governments and be ready to provide any required assistance. In a significant decision, the Defence Minister directed the Armed Forces and other stakeholders to go ahead with procurement of critical medical requirements under emergency powers of procurement.

DRDO Chairman briefed that a Covid-19 facility, developed by DRDO, has again been made functional in New Delhi and efforts are being made to soon increase the number of beds from 250 to 500. Dr Sathish Reddy informed the meeting that the ESIC Hospital, which was converted to Covid hospital in Patna, has started functioning with 500 beds and a Covid hospital will soon be made functional at Muzaffarpur in Bihar. He also informed that work is on at war footing to set up a 450-bed hospital in Lucknow, 750-bed hospital in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh and 900-bed hospital in Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Rajnath Singh was also informed that based on the On-Board Oxygen Generation Technology developed for LCA Tejas, a 1000 litre/minute capacity oxygen generation plants technology has been given to the industry and the Uttar Pradesh government has placed order of five such plants with the industry. Dr Reddy informed the Defence Minister that more plants can be supplied by the industry to cater to the hospital requirements. He further said SpO2 (Blood Oxygen Saturation) based supplemental oxygen delivery system developed for soldiers posted at extreme high-altitude areas can be used for Covid patients as their conditions become similar. The product will be available soon in the market from the industry as per technology provided by DRDO. The Defence Minister was informed that the AFMS has mobilised its man power and other resources in various military hospitals dealing with Covid patients. To augment the manpower if required, the minister suggested to utilise the services of vaccinated retired Armed Forces personnel to assist the civil administration/state governments to deal with the current situation. During the meeting, Rajnath Singh also discussed ways to contain the spread of Covid-19 among the Armed Forces personnel and the officers/staff working in Ministry of Defence. He focused on Covid-appropriate behaviour at the work place, stressing on the need to strictly follow all the Covid protocols such as wearing of masks at all times and maintaining physical distancing.

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Defence

HERITAGE AS LEGACY IN THE EVOLUTION OF INDIA: CASE STUDY OF NAVAL DOCKYARD IN MUMBAI

The Indian terrestrial approach lured us away from the seas which were left almost unprotected.

Janhavi Lokegaonkar

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India is a maritime nation with a rich heritage. History records our oceanic links with other nations of Indian Ocean and beyond from the Harappan civilisation and lasting through the centuries. Indian maritime influence can be seen in all walks of Indian history. Our development is owed to the maritime economy and a gradual advancement of maritime infrastructure along the coastal frontiers. If we are to learn from our history, the biggest lesson is that the Indian terrestrial approach lured us away from the seas which were left almost unprotected. The failure amongst the Indians to perceive the potential threat from the maritime frontiers and percolate a maritime vision and policies among the masses was one of the grave problems that led to the rise of Colonial rule in India. This article highlights one facet as an outcome of “Manthan” or churn of the sea saga of Indian journey.

Under the Company and the Crown, the city of Bombay was developed further taking into consideration of all the physical features it had which gave it an edge. Even with self-gain as the motive, the emerging vision aided colonial officials to analyse the importance of the geography of Bombay and developed it as ‘Urbs Prima in Indis’-the premier city of the Empire.

Today as we traverse the heritage precinct of Fort area in South Mumbai, we are reminded of the lasting legacy that is the built heritage across the city’s waterfront. The Naval Dockyard that stands tall as a custodian of Mumbai’s coastline is a heritage facility in itself. The Wadia Master builders were commissioned to develop this shipbuilding and docking facility (erstwhile Bombay Dockyard) in Bombay in 1735. Today, this is used by the Western Naval Command of the Indian Navy that upholds its heritage and continues to maintain its legacy.

With the Industrial revolution in Europe, change was inevitable. In the wake of Industrialisation in England, there was a paradigm shift in the realms of production. Technology took over and since then it has only developed. Ironically, this phase also marks the deindustrialisation in the Indian subcontinent in order to facilitate and furnish the English industries. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 and the need for better docking and banking facilities at such a juncture is self-explanatory. The undertaking of construction for new dock building and related facilities was deemed necessary and beneficial for improving the efficiency of the maritime trade and commerce.

Bombay Dockyard and nearby facilities made ‘Ships-of-the-Line’ for the Royal Navy that were considered to be of superior quality and craftsmanship. The skills and nautical expertise of the Indian shipbuilders was a legacy in itself. But, the Indian shipbuilding industry that was once sought after met its downfall as the sail ships were replaced with the steam vessels. Despite such setback, this never deterred the Indian shipping industry. Bombay faced economic repercussions but the indomitable spirit of the city as we see today was blazing even then. After an initial slump in the shipbuilding industry, the Dockyard and other facilities gave rise to a number of other associated industries that aligned with the needs of the shipping sector thereby creating a market for economy with wider avenues. Soon, the docking facilities were equipped and gained momentum as a ship repair and refits industry which made a lot of progress.

Built heritage and maritime affairs intermingle with economic matters-thus creating a legacy and building a stronger future of our nation. A gradual progression in the maritime infrastructure and its resultant impact on the economy has played a vital role in the development of the Indian shipping sector. Promotion of our maritime heritage and traditions by a holistic development of the coastal communities by integrating them in the mainstream policies will ensure the promotion of our rich maritime legacy.

The evolution of the Mumbai city is owed to the maritime economy and due to harnessing of its maritime connect and development of the infrastructure. The role and contribution of the maritime sector in developing the city to what it is today must be acknowledged. The mushrooming of allied industries in the shipping industry is a subsequent factor. The economy of Bombay strengthened which led to the creation of an industrial infrastructure. This was the rise of a modern SEZ i.e. Special Economic Zone, a precursor to the modern metropolis that Mumbai has become today.

Shortly after the World Heritage Day commemorated on 18 April 2021 this week sees launch of a multi-stakeholder initiative to revive maritime consciousness in form of a unique workshop titled “Indian Maritime History : A Manthan”. In the two day workshop, 21 – 22 April 2021, Dr Malini Shankar, IAS (Retd), Vice Chancellor, Indian Maritime University will deliver the Keynote Address while Commodore Odakkal Johnson, Director, Maritime History Society will mentor the proceedings and provide the thematic setting. The contents will benefit students, faculty & maritime enthusiasts. The workshop will evolve elements of an approach towards a long-term facility for excellence in Maritime History as envisaged in Maritime India Vision 2030. Maritime History Society and Indian Maritime University invite an enthusiastic response toward the resurgence of Sea Mindedness through participation, promotion and resource infusion into the journey to enhance influence for greater maritime consciousness in India.

Janhavi Lokegaonkar is a Research Associate at Maritime History Society with a focus on modern aspects of Indian Maritime History

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