S. Korean Defence Minister on a three-day India visit - The Daily Guardian
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S. Korean Defence Minister on a three-day India visit

Ashish Singh

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As part of increasing bilateral defence cooperation between India and the Republic of Korea, Mr Suh Wook, the Minister of National Defence, Republic of Korea, is visiting India from 25 to 27 March. The Minister will interact with a number of senior Indian dignitaries over the course of his visit and discuss issues of strategic nature.

Mr Suh Wook will pay his respects at the National War Memorial today, which will be followed by his inauguration of the Indo-Korean Bilateral Friendship Park in Delhi Cantonment. The Park commemorates the contribution of Indian peacekeepers during the Korean War and is a testament to the strong relations between the two countries. The Minister will also be accorded a Tri Services Guard of Honour at Sushma Swaraj Bhawan followed by interaction with Raksha Mantri Rajnath Singh. Mr. Such Wook will proceed to Agra on 27th March and witness the operational capabilities of the Parachute Brigade at Agra. He will also visit and interact with personnel of 60 Para Field Hospital, which was actively involved in providing medical aid to United Nations and South Korean personnel during the Korean War. The actions of these Maroon Angels cemented Indo-Korean friendship further. He is scheduled to return later in the evening.

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Defence

VICE ADMIRAL GHORMADE ASSUMES CHARGE AS VICE CHIEF OF THE NAVAL STAFF

Ashish Singh

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Vice Admiral SN Ghormade, AVSM, NM has assumed charge as the Vice Chief of Naval Staff from Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar, PVSM, AVSM, VSM, ADC at a formal ceremony held at South Block, New Delhi. Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar is retired after glorious service of 39 years.

Vice Admiral SN Ghormade is an alumni of the National Defence Academy (NDA), Khadakwasla, Naval Staff College at the United States Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, and the Naval War College, Mumbai. The Flag Officer was commissioned in the Indian Navy on 1st Jan 1984 and is a Navigation and Direction specialist. The Flag Officer has had extensive operational tenures onboard frontline warships of the Indian Navy. During his career spanning over 37 years, he has been through a myriad of operational and staff appointments. His important operational appointments include Commands of Guided Missile Frigate INS Brahmaputra, Submarine Rescue Vessel INS Nireekshak, and Minesweeper INS Alleppey, and Second-in-Command of Guided Missile Frigate INS Ganga. INS Nireekshak was awarded the Unit Citation for the first time during his command.

His important staff appointments ashore include Assistant Chief of Personnel (Human Resources Development), Principal Director of Personnel, Director Naval Plans and Joint Director Naval Plans at Naval Headquarters as separate assignments, Director (Military Affairs) at the Ministry of External Affairs (Disarmament & International Security Affairs), Local Workup Team (West), and Instructor at the Navigation Direction School and the National Defence Academy. The officer also held the coveted appointments of Flag Officer Commanding Karnataka Naval Area and Flag Officer Commanding Maharashtra Naval Area. In the rank of Vice Admiral he has held the challenging and coveted appointments of Director General Naval Operations, Chief of Staff Eastern Naval Command and Controller Personnel Services. The Flag Officer was holding the tri-service appointment of Deputy Chief (Operations & Training) at Headquarters Integrated Defence Staff prior taking over the present appointment as Vice Chief of the Naval Staff at IHQ MoD(N).The Flag officer was awarded the Ati Vishisht Seva Medal on 26th Jan 17 and Nausena Medal in 2007 by the President of India, and Commendation by the Chief of the Naval Staff in 2000.

He has succeeded Vice Admiral G Ashok Kumar who retires after more than 39 years of illustrious service. During his tenure as VCNS, the Navy saw an increase in budget allocation with 100% utilisation of allocated budget with impetus on capital acquisition. He proactively pushed for adopting ‘AtmaNirbhar Bharat’ Mission with Navy allocating more than 2/3rd of capital procurement from indigenous sources, 39 out of 41 ships and submarines for Indian Navy are being constructed in Indian Shipyards. The first ever procurement case under the Strategic Partnership Model for Project 75(I) was successfully progressed for issuance of RFP during his tenure. Many other instances of technological advancements, capability enhancements and research and development projects with DRDO and DPSU were progressed during his illustrious tenure.

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Defence

BRO CARRIES OUT RESCUE, RELIEF OPERATIONS IN FLOOD-HIT HIMACHAL

Ashish Singh

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Border Roads Organisation (BRO) is carrying out rescue and relief operations in Himachal Pradesh that is witnessing flash floods and landslides due to heavy rainfall. In the Lahaul & Spiti Valley, the strategic Manali-Sarchu road was closed for traffic at various places due to multiple landslides. BRO’s Project Deepak located at Shimla immediately despatched its trained Engineering Task Force with personnel and equipment to undertake the rescue and road clearing operations.

On July 29th, on one such stretch near Sarchu ahead of Baralachala pass on Manali Leh road, a number of civilians, including women and children, were stranded and facing problems due to lack of oxygen in inclement high-altitude conditions. The BRO team cleared the landslide, amidst a series of other landslides, near Kenlung Sarai located at an altitude of 14,480 ft and rescued the people. However, Naik Reetesh Kumar Pal of Project Deepak, who was part of the rescue efforts, lost his life. The road was, later, opened for traffic.In another incident on July 27th, a separate Engineer Task Force of BRO was deployed for clearance of Kiler–Tandi road which was blocked due to heavy landslides. Two passenger vehicles were stranded in the area. The team, which had already cleared two landslides en-route, carried out a late night clearance operation to save lives of civilians stranded in the slide zone. During the operation, some members of the team, six civilians and a civil vehicle were washed away by a sudden flash flood. Junior Engineer Rahul Kumar lost his life in the incident, while others were rescued by the BRO personnel.The BRO personnel, later, cleared the landslide, rescued the stranded passengers and moved them to safer locations.

Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has restored connectivity at Yarlung-Lamang road in Shi Yomi district of Arunachal Pradesh. On July 27th, the road was breached at multiple locations due to incessant rain and cloud burst.Project Brahmank of BRO had mobilised its Engineer Task Force and Quick Response Team comprising skilled manpower and equipment like JCB, Dozers and Excavators. Braving tough weather conditions, fifty BRO personnel continued round-the-clock restoration work day with heavy equipment. The line of communication was restored for pedestrians and transhipment facility was provided to the Armed Forces personnel so that essential services like ration and medical facility reach the troops deployed at forward areas. The light vehicle connectivity was restored on July 28th. The BRO continues to deploy its resources to ensure full connectivity by today.

The road under Project Brahmank of BRO was inaugurated on June 17, 2021. The strategically important road is crucial for the Armed Forces personnel posted in forward areas as well as the villages.

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Defence

12TH EDITION OF INDIA-RUSSIA EXERCISE INDRA-21 BEGINS

The Indian Navy was represented by the stealth Frigate INS Tabar, while the Russian Federation Navy was represented by Corvettes RFS Zelyony Dol and RFS Odintsovo of the Baltic Fleet.

Ashish Singh

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12th Edition of Indo-Russia joint military Exercise INDRA 2021 is being held at Volgograd, Russia from 1st to 13th August. The exercise will entail conduct of counter terror operations under the United Nations mandate by a joint force against international terror groups.250 personnel from both the nations will form part of the exercise. The Indian Army contingent comprising of a Mechanised Infantry Battalion underwent rigorous training at different locations in India to refine their drills for participation in the joint exercise. Exercise INDRA-21 will further strengthen mutual confidence and interoperability between the Indian & Russian Armies and enable sharing of best practices between the contingents of both the countries. The exercise will be yet another milestone in strengthening security cooperation and will serve to reinforce the longstanding bond of friendship between India and Russia.

The 12th edition of exercise INDRA NAVY, a biennial bilateral maritime exercise between Indian Navy and Russian Navy was held in the Baltic Sea last week. Initiated in 2003, Ex INDRA NAVY epitomises the long-term strategic relationship between the two navies. This exercise was undertaken as part of the visit of INS Tabar to St Petersburg, Russia to participate in the 325th Navy Day celebrations of the Russian Navy.INDRA NAVY has matured over the years with increase in scope, complexity of operations and level of participation. The primary aim of this year’s edition is to further consolidate inter-operability built up by the two Navies over the years and also to enhance understanding and procedures for multi-faceted maritime operations. The scope of this edition includes wide-ranging and diverse activities across the spectrum of maritime operations.

The Indian Navy was represented by the stealth Frigate INS Tabar whilst the Russian Federation Navy was represented by Corvettes RFS Zelyony Dol and RFS Odintsovo of the Baltic Fleet.The exercise was progressed over two days and included various facets of fleet operations such as anti-air firings, underway replenishment drills, helicopter ops, boarding drills and seamanship evolutions.Exercise INDRA NAVY-21, being conducted despite the constraints imposed by the pandemic, enables further strengthen mutual confidence, inter-operability and enable sharing of best practices between both Navies. The exercise is another milestone in strengthening cooperation between the two navies and reinforce the long-standing bond of friendship between the two countries.

INS Tabar reached St Petersburg, Russia to participate in the 325th Navy Day celebrations of the Russian Navy. Mr D B Venkatesh Varma, Ambassador of India to the Russian Federation visited the ship and was briefed by the Commanding Officer regarding the present deployment. The Ambassador conveyed his appreciation for the role played by the Indian Navy in guarding our sea frontiers and in further strengthening the friendly India-Russia relations.Vice Admiral Sergei Yeliseyev, Deputy Commander of Russian Navy’s Baltic Fleet visited Tabar on 23rd July. He was received onboard with a Guard of Honor. He expressed deep appreciation to the Indian Navy for participation of the ship in the important event for the Russian Federation Navy (RuFN). He conveyed that the two Navies have strong bilateral relations and wished for more frequent mutual interactions. The Commanding Officer presented the Admiral with the ship’s crest on conclusion of the visit.

On 24th July, The Commanding Officer, Captain Mahesh Mangipudi, paid homage at the historic Piskaryovskoye Memorial Cemetery in St Petersburg.On 25th July, the 325th Navy Day of the RussianNavy, the ship joined the column of ships in Naval Parade reviewed by Mr Vladimir Putin, the President of Russian Federation. Over 50 ships, motor boats, submarines, 48 airplanes and helicopters of the naval aviation took part in the parade.Post Navy Day celebrations, Tabar participated in Exercise INDRA in the Baltic sea with two Russian Navy ships.

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Defence

AFGHANISTAN AT CROSSROADS, AND THE ROAD AHEAD FOR TALIBAN

While the Taliban never withered away, and that they now have come back into the reckoning, the ground situation in Afghanistan has changed drastically.

LT GEN PR SHANKAR (Retd)

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Everyone expects Taliban, supported by Pakistan, which is backed by China to sweep into power in Afghanistan. That is the dark visage floating up. As the US forces are leaving the country , the current momentum and tempo of the Taliban offensive suggests an inevitability of their return. There is sense of return to the bad old days. There is air of despondency in Indian strategic circles, jubilation in some sections of Pakistan, and a large sense of trepidation in the rest of the world. From China emanates the smell of greed and a a sense of fear simultaneously. There is an aura of total opacity of what the future holds. However we have to go back into history to understand what can happen in future.


Insurgency in Afghanistan (File photo: Creative Commons/Wiki)

The international geopolitical scene was far different in the days when Taliban rose to power. One superpower – USSR had been just defeated and was disintegrating. The other superpower – USA just walked away from the region savouring victory in an era of the forthcoming unipolar world. Afghanistan was in a chaotic vacuum after Najibullah was hung on a pole. Radical Islamism was on the ascendancy. Pakistan was in its prime of being a rogue state and its economy was upbeat. ‘Pack-istan’ was the darling frontline state of the West. Its ‘deep state’ which crystallised during the heady days of Zia Ul Haq, sought strategic depth in Afghanistan. The Mujahideen were footloose in Afghanistan. They were morphed into Taliban by aid and abetment of ISI. They had virtually no opposition internally or externally. They were largely unopposed thanks to their Pakistani backers. Externally, people did not care a damn about Afghanistan. Taliban ruled the roost with rustic religious fervour headed by a reclusive cleric who gave sanctuary to Osama Bin laden and Al Qaeda. However, even then , they could control only 75% of the area. The Northern Alliance opposed them. The Taliban of those days took Afghanistan back to the stone ages with their version of a repressive Sharia. It was one of the poorest countries in the world. Everything changed with 9/11 and collapse of the twin towers. The Taliban was booted out of power by USA.

While the Taliban never withered away, and that now have come back into the reckoning, the ground in Afghanistan has changed drastically. They themselves are no more the rustic religious zealots. They are now a suave outfit, which has its talons in the drugs and mining trade at every bend of the illegal pipe line. The drug economy is significant since it has grown fourfoldin cropping area and about tenfold in cash volumes in the last two decades. The Taliban have a major stake in this trade which has been their sustenance. They now seek power and legitimacy. They are now better organised with a leadership structure. While they want to reimpose the Sharia , they are also conscious of their image. The recent videos of their barbarous slaughter of the Afghan Army soldiers and their edicts regarding women have rekindled the bad taste of yesteryears. The Taliban is also conscious of the fact that their main backer, Pakistan is a decrepit failed state, which in turn is backed by a state which wants to be a superpower at least cost but is apprehensive to get involved directly. They also seek international recognition which they will not get if they cannot remove the bad taste they generate. Everyone – Russia, Iran, CARs, India, EU, Turkey, Middle East, Pakistan and China are wary of them for two fundamental reasons. The first being the export of religious extremism and the second being drugs. Both these are the main ingredients of terror. The Taliban is now opposed by a recognised government in power with an organised armed force which seems to be fighting back after the initial shock. The current government is backed by USA and most countries. Most importantly, USA will oppose the Taliban with maximum force unless it is clear that the dispensation in Afghanistan with or without them can be relied upon not to harm its homeland security. They face some formidable opposition. Let us see what the opposition is all about.

In Afghanistan, proxy play by regional and bigger powers has always been a constant; a bankrupt Pakistan is just one among them. Taliban will therefore be clear that Pakistan will ditch it at a moment’s notice if need be. Taliban will also be sensitive to the fact that while Pakistan wants them in the driving seat, it wants to do backseat driving. That will not be acceptable to the Taliban beyond a point. Pakistan, has also fenced the border with Afghanistan. It has also deployed regular army along the border. Pakistan wants to keep the conflict on Afghan soil and airspace and not let it spill to their side. Pakistan is also worried about inflow of refugees, infiltrators in the garb of refugees, movement of Afghan army personnel or Taliban fighters into Pakistan. So there is the love hate angle.

USA has swung into action through air strikes in support of Afghan Forces. Everyone thought that USA has withdrawn from the scene. However as it was surmised and being proven now, USA has shifted from direct to indirect intervention. That opens up many possibilities. One should not forget that USA is no more dependent on Pakistan. It will not hesitate to strike at Pakistan if needed. By denying a base for air operations, Pakistan has put itself in the cross hairs of USA. If Pakistan crosses any red line in operations as per USAs perception, it will get hit. Be rest assured that Pakistan knows its limit here and so does the Taliban. Now as per the inputs, USA is likely to use one of the CARs as a base and Russia might agree to it. If that happens, the likelihood of outright Taliban success recedes.

As far as China is concerned, it has started protecting itself in Pakistan as per reports. Its engineers and workers in the CPEC projects are being armed for self-protection. So its entry into Afghanistan directly is a bit far away. Will China take the risk to enter this volatility? It is a question mark. So far it has been careful not to fall in that trap. However with US withdrawal moving on schedule, it has appointed a special envoy for Afghanistan. In the meanwhile there is also news that the United States, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have taken a stand that terrorists and third-party forces must never be allowed to use Afghan territory to threaten or attack the CARs. USA, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan have also agreed in principle to establish a new quadrilateral diplomatic platform to enhance regional connectivity. This ties them in with the current Afghan Government and limits Pakistan’s options. It also tells the Taliban that Pakistan is hedging its bets. In the meantime, Russia, Iran and India are also playing their part with the Afghan Government.

All in all the Taliban seems to be isolated to some extent. It’s on ground actions have generated images of its dark past and have stoked deep mistrust. There is no one who seems to be siding Taliban openly or fully. On ground there is no doubt that it has control almost over half of Afghanistan’s 419 districts. However none of the 34 provincial capitals in Afghanistan have been seized by the Taliban, though they have been put under pressure. On the other hand, there is a good possibility that the Afghan forces might consolidate and strike back to regain lost ground, now that the USA has struck with its air force. The Taliban sems to have realised that their position is not as strong as they have made it out. They might not prevail . That is why they have been quick to say that the last round of talks in Doha were ‘positive’. It seems that they are seeking a compromise.

Will the compromise come about? That is a million dollar question. The differences between the two sides are stark. The Afghan side insists on a ceasefire before there can be any real dialogue. The Taliban want President Ghani out of the frame. They insist on establishment of their strict version of a Sharia system. There is also a matter of differing views on an inclusive government comprising all segments of Afghan society and ethnic groups. The Taliban are still holding out on what they interpret as inclusivity or whether they believe in elected democracy. Their views on human rights, particularly on women’s right to education and to work is engulfed in shadows. Their demand for an ‘Islamic emirate’ contradicts their claim that they believe in a pluralistic political system. Hence there is an impasse with no middle ground at present.

Overall a range of possible outcomes in Afghanistan are on the cards. An outcome in which Taliban takes over Afghanistan once USA leaves is not a certainty as is being made out. The chances of a stable government born out of compromise also does not seem bright as of now. The situation could continue in the current state of indecisive to and fro violence for some time and eventually descend into a state of civil war. The possibility is high. Alternately some settlement could take place now. Taliban could be devious enough to agree to some conditions , get into a power sharing agreement to buy time. Once there is a lull and things cool down, the Taliban will undercut the arrangement and cull its opponents through political action and selective coercion and violence. That would be in keeping with its character as also that of its backers Pakistan and China. In my opinion, this is a very feasible option.

At this point of time the last option of striking a compromise and reneging later seems to be the best option for Taliban. India should discuss this out with the USA, Russia and Iran to come to a common action plan to thwart this design. India will also do well to remember that the Taliban will always be more amenable to Pakistan than India. It is in Indian interest that a hybrid government which is reasonably stable runs Afghanistan. A thought which comes to mind is that will India consider giving basing facilities to USA to carry out operations in Afghanistan if the former can handle overflights over Pakistan. That is an option which should not be ruled out. It will give a strong message to China and Pakistan. However it will need a lot of political determination to tread this path. In any eventuality, India has a pivotal role to play should any agreement be reached between the Afghanistan government and Taliban. India should be alive to all options and have its plans chalked out.

Lt Gen PR Shankar was India’s DG Artillery. He is highly decorated and qualified with vastoperational experience. He contributed significantly to the Modernization and Indigenisationof Artillery. He is now a Professor in the Aerospace Dept of IIT Madras and is involved inapplied research for defence technology. His other articles can be read onwww.gunnersshot.com

All in all the Taliban seems to be isolated to some extent. It’s on- ground actions have generated images of its dark past and have stoked deep mistrust. There is no one who seems to be siding Taliban openly or fully. On ground, there is no doubt that it has control almost over half of Afghanistan’s 419 districts. However none of the 34 provincial capitals in Afghanistan have been seized by the Taliban, though they have been put under pressure. On the other hand, there is a good possibility that the Afghan forces might consolidate and strike back to regain lost ground, now that the USA has struck with its air force. The Taliban sems to have realised that their position is not as strong as they have made it out.

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DEFEXPO-2022 TO BE HELD IN GANDHINAGAR

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DefExpo, the flagship event of the Ministry of Defence, is scheduled to be held at Gandhinagar in March next year, officials said on Friday.

“The Defexpo-2022 is scheduled to be held in Gandhinagar, Gujarat in March next year. The show is organised by the Ministry of Defence every two years. The last edition was held in Lucknow,” Defence Ministry officials informed. The last edition which was held in Lucknow as an unprecedented success that not only witnessed the participation of a large number of exhibitors but also forged new partnerships and attracted more than 12 lakh visitors.

A ministry statement quoted Defence Minister Rajnath Singh’s valedictory ceremony speech on the fourth day of DefExpo 2020 in Lucknow. Singh had said that Uttar Pradesh stands for Unlimited Potential and DefExpo has succeeded in projecting a new identity of the state in the defence sector and the Uttar Pradesh defence corridor received a huge boost for attracting new investments with the signing of 23 MoUs.

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CHENNAI-BASED DEFTECH STARTUP SHOWCASES INDIGENOUS ANTI-DRONE SYSTEM

Ashish Singh

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A Chennai-based DefTech startup Big Bang Boom Solutions Pvt. Ltd. (BBBS) showcased its award-winning, indigenous anti-drone defence system as part of Swarnim Vijay Varsh Celebrations at a ceremony held at the Chennai Army Headquarters.

To mark the 50th year of our army marching into Dhaka, 2021 has been named “Swarnim Vijay Varsh” by the Government of India as the nation started the celebrations of 50 years of the 1971 Indo-Pak war. The Swarnim Vijay Mashaal (Flame) is now travelling across the country to celebrate the same. Swarnim Vijay Mashaal is visiting all military bases and homes of martyrs; before returning to Delhi for an event scheduled on 16 December 2021. Upon receipt at Army HQ in Chennai, a grand ceremony was held at the Dakshin Area Command Headquarters.

As an innovative twist to the event, the Chennai-based DefTech startup, executed a perfectly coordinated drone fly-past using their high altitude heavy payload logistics drone following the infantry and the horse cavalry regiments showcasing Chennai’s tech capabilities and its deep integration with the defence ecosystem and lifestyle.

Commenting on the showcase, Dr R. Shivaraman, Founder, BBBS, said, “We are proud to have been a part of the event, and would like to take this chance to pay homage to the martyrs of India’s war with Pakistan in 1971; by demonstrating our technology. We have also showcased our state-of-the-art anti-drone defence system as a part of the display at the event and we believe that India now has the capability to arm and support its own defence forces using indigenous technology.”

BBBS’s anti-drone system has been tested and tried in the field by various sections of the armed forces including the Northern Command, the BSF, the Indian Airforce and the Army Design Bureau.

“Our anti-drone system has undergone several field trials over the past 2 months after the Jammu attack and we have been repeatedly able to show world-class paradigm defining ranges for both sensing and jamming of drones as required by the armed forces,” added Dr R. Shivaraman.

Their integrated system comes with an RF sensor, an RF jammer and a suitable AI-based EO/IR system. The open architecture of the system allows integration of the radars and hard kill solutions such as the 22 crore DRDO’s laser weaponry, which would make this India’s first integrated anti-drone system developed by a homegrown startup.

“The iDEX program of the Ministry of Defence has been instrumental towards us getting to where we are. We are now awaiting the most important piece of this exclusive program — Procurement. This will help us plough money into further R&D and create world-class systems,” says Praveen Dwarakanath, Co-founder of BBBS.

The event at Chennai was spearheaded by Lt. Gen Arun, GOC Dakshin Bharath on behalf of the Indian Army and presided over by the Governor of Tamil Nadu, Banwarilal Purohit and witnessed huge participation of civilians, DefTech startups, industry and various regiments from the south.

All southern India Chakra awardees, and other medal awardees or their next of kin were felicitated at the event.

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