If the Indo-Pacific is the centre of gravity of international geopolitics and economics, its core is China’s rise. China’s ‘Dream and Rejuvenation’ was fine till it was peaceful. However, its military and economic assertion, threats and coercion, to impose a Chinese global order in accelerated time frames is unacceptable. China took advantage of the pandemic-driven humanitarian crisis to reprehensibly progress its geopolitical ambitions. To top it all, it painted itself as the victim of a crisis it virtually perpetuated. Chinese actions drove the Quad nations to coalesce. However, the idea has not progressed to its logical conclusion. With new administrations in the US and Japan settling in, there is a consensus developing. Quad 3.0 is coming alive, hopefully to stem the Chinese tide. In my last article, I outlined a few issues which need to be considered to take the Quad 3.0 concept forward. In this article, I shall focus on ‘six strategies’ which Quad 3.0 needs to adopt.
OUTLOOK OF QUAD 3.0
The resolve of Quad 3.0 nations is clear with the pace at which their dialogue and consultation is progressing. However, Quad 3.0 needs to have a flexible outlook. In the larger context of the Indo-Pacific region, Quad 3.0 should prevent Chinese domination to keep it ‘Free and Open’. Within the tighter grouping, there should be no ambiguity. Quad 3.0 should aim to contain China. This dual approach will be required since Quad 3.0 will be the multilateral – multi-mechanism platform. These mechanisms could be evolved with European, ASEAN or other regional players. Also, action will have to encompass military, diplomatic, economic and health domains. All actions taken by Quad nations must reinforce each other’s strengths, accommodate sensitivities and cover vulnerabilities. Further Quad must leverage strengths of regional and extra regional players on an as required and case to case basis to achieve its aims. Hence the necessity to have a broad and long-term strategy. As the strategy evolves the Quad nations themselves have to get into a formal grouping.
At this juncture, where does China stand? Depending on one’s viewpoint and beliefs, China is either a high-speed bullet train or a crashing meteorite. The real truth is somewhere in between. While China has controlled the virus well, its population remains vulnerable. China does not have the capability to vaccinate all its people to achieve herd immunity for the next 2 years. Every outbreak hereafter will witness widespread lockdowns. This imposes economic penalties when compared to other countries which achieve herd immunity and are economically rebounding. As the virus fades, the aging demography will assert itself; if the plummeting birth rates—their causes and implications are any indicator. China’s economy is also seeing unusual signs of bankruptcies, asset bubbles, reigning in big businesses, manufacturing dips coupled with arrest/wing clipping of high net worth dissenters. Civil society in China is virtually wiped out. Chinese overseas BRI investments are not paying off. Their praiseworthy technological prowess has limitations despite being driven by single mindedness. Chinese ‘Wolf Warrior’ diplomacy is now a brand incapable of eradicating the trust deficit created by flagrant violation of the international rule-based order. It leaves China bereft of allies, sans Pakistan and North Korea.
Chinese effort to have the greatest military on earth is a work in progress. The huge PLA is yet to achieve full mechanisation. Ability to fight an informationised battle is far. Most importantly, PLA is not a fighting machine with brilliant generals leaders like Rommel, Von Manstein or Von Rundstedt led by a messianic Hitler. It is a political army led by an ambitious, authoritarian leader aspiring eternal power. It is far from being a world beater; with a proven track record of military failure. Does it approximate to the aggressive China confronting the Quad? Ponder. It is in this context that we need to examine the available strategies.
Strategy of Military Overstretch: PLA needs to be stretched to prepare for three conventional scenarios – an amphibious crossing to annex Taiwan, naval domination of the Indo-Pacific and a conflict in high Himalayas. In any military undertaking it should face a two-front scenario as it did in the past nine months. It should be drawn and committed militarily in one hybrid front. Pakistan and CPEC are a ripe possibility which is already developing into a hybrid front. It can be fuelled. Essentially a 3-2-1 concept. In all cases, Quad 3.0 should aim to continuously change force ratios and capability to shift PLAs goal posts. This will force it to commit more resources than it has. PLA has a Stability-Instability paradox. Its leadership is very stable at the top. On ground there is instability at the bottom—lack of initiative and experience. A conscript armed force of this magnitude often lacks motivation which is apparent in the PLA and contributes to lower instability. All this will keep stretching China not only militarily but will pose a burden on its plateauing economy.
Strategy of Five Instabilities: China has five instabilities and all of them pertain to the non-Han population in its outer periphery—Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan, Mongolia and Hong Kong. These challenge the core principle of ‘One China’. Most importantly, the five instabilities can keep Chinese focused inwards. The issues involved range from basic human rights to persecution of minorities to religious freedom to forced labour camps and extending up to genocide. These instabilities can also tie down PLA militarily. Overall, these instabilities make the leadership nervous. They have huge inter-relationships and can be made interoperable. They will keep China on its toes in all international fora. This is a low-cost strategy which can be kept on play day in – day out with great dividends.
Strategy of Diversion: Quad 3.0 must divert the economic flow away from China. At the root, supply chain relocation away from China will contribute immensely to lowering Chinese capabilities. However, it must be done in a planned manner over a period of time. The Supply Chain Resilience Initiative platform is available for expansion. Quad 3.0 needs to embrace it. Also, Quad 3.0 needs to provide an alternative to the BRI and a way out for debt trapped countries. In any analysis, the Quad nations have the best credentials of strong economies with ability to consume, produce, and innovate. Quad 3.0 must have an economic agenda. It will contribute to the containment of China and also boost their own economies.
Strategy of Bleed: China must be made to bleed economically in the BRI and CPEC. Already some of it is happening in Pakistan. A failing Pakistan is at the confluence or intersection of conflicting geopolitical interests depending on the way one looks at it. These can be leveraged through external and internal pressures to make Pakistan into a bleeding Chinese artery. Every base which China is establishing will end up in a hybrid environment on its own eventually. If China wants to be a super power to lay down the rules of the international road it will have to write them in blood just as the USSR, UK and US have done so before. It must not be allowed to get away with being a purveyor of money bag power.
Strategy of Denial: The strategy of denial is multi domain with vast scope. Some issues are highlighted here. Despite all its progress in technology, China still lacks some critical aspects of agricultural technology and it relies on imported seed. Food security fragility is a new emergent phenomenon in China. It has shortcomings in critical components of core manufacturing technology. China will continue to be energy dependent and its Malacca dilemma must continue. It is making a beeline towards the Arctic for future energy requirements. It seeks diplomatic space specially in situations like Myanmar or Sri Lanka. China also seeks additional bases in the Indo Pacific. Strategic denial of elbow room for China to break away from its constraints or expanding its interests will be very useful. It will contribute to prevention of domination of the Indo-Pacific as well as its containment.
Strategy of Loss of Face: China has a huge historic liability. Its highly efficient long term centrally planned programs are often disastrous. The economics of the Great Leap Forward and the impact of the One Child Policy are prime examples. Its ‘People’s War on the Virus’ and ‘Vaccine Diplomacy’ are likely to end with a similar loss of face. Its inability to produce vaccines of quality and in numbers leave it vulnerable. Eventually its vaccine diplomacy is bound to fail. There are indications of this already. It is likely to fail due to inability to reach herd immunity and being forced to contend with repeated flare ups. A country which cannot help itself cannot help others! The Chinese self-image and ‘Face’ are important. The US and India in particular have the capability to put in a cogent strategy to effect loss of face to China.
The strategies outlined span multiple domains. They are being put in place already through individual / bilateral/ group efforts in some manner. It is not a revolutionary thought process. The effort here has been to highlight the possibilities of combined action. One should not lose sight of the fact that China is too big to rein in by one or two nations alone. It will need a wider set of capabilities. China must be made to behave like any other normal nation. Also, China will come up with some counter strategies. That is par for the game. Need to tackle it together. What is given here is only a framework thought process. It can be modified as per circumstances. Also, all partners need not be involved in executing all strategies. Execution can be through/in concert with other regional/extra regional players too. However, the most important thing is that Quad 3.0 must first firm up itself. It must define for itself what it wants to achieve within its limitations, differences and realms of possibility. Quad has to stop being an IDEA and must manifest itself in definable form. That is the primary challenge before the US, Australia, India and Japan.
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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EASTERN FLEET SHIPS ON OVERSEAS OPERATIONAL DEPLOYMENT
In pursuit of India’s ‘Act East’ policy and to enhance military cooperation with friendly countries, a Task Force of Indian Navy’s Eastern Fleet is scheduled to proceed on an Overseas Deployment to South East Asia, the South China Sea and Western Pacific from early Aug 2021 for over two months. The deployment of the Indian Navy ships seeks to underscore the operational reach, peaceful presence and solidarity with friendly countries towards ensuring good order in the maritime domain and to strengthen existing bonds between India and countries of the Indo Pacific.
The Indian Naval task group comprises Guided Missile Destroyer Ranvijay, Guided Missile Frigate Shivalik, Anti-Submarine Corvette Kadmatt and Guided Missile Corvette Kora. The latter three ships are indigenously designed and are equipped with a versatile array of weapons and sensors, and are Made in India by Defence Shipyards.During the deployment in the Indo Pacific, the ships are scheduled to participate in bilateral exercises with Vietnamese Peoples’ Navy, Republic of Philippines Navy, Republic of Singapore Navy (SIMBEX), Indonesian Navy (Samudra Shakti) and Royal Australian Navy (AUS-INDEX). Further, they would also participate in multilateral exercise MALABAR-21 alongside the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force, Royal Australian Navy and the United States Navy in Western Pacific.
The Indian Navy undertakes regular deployments to friendly foreign countries and Indian and the Pacific Ocean regions in furtherance of the Prime Minister’s initiative of ‘Security and Growth for All in the Region – SAGAR’. Further, such engagements build ‘Bridges of Friendship’ and strengthen international cooperation. These maritime initiatives enhance synergy and coordination between the Indian Navy and friendly countries, based on common maritime interests and commitment towards Freedom of Navigation at sea. Besides regular port calls, the task group will operate in conjunction with friendly navies, to build military relations and develop interoperability in the conduct of maritime operations.
BORDER ROADS ORGANISATION CONSTRUCTS HIGHEST MOTORABLE ROAD IN THE WORLD IN EASTERN LADAKH
Border Roads Organisation (BRO) has constructed and black-topped the highest motorable road in the world at 19,300 ft at Umlingla Pass in Eastern Ladakh, creating a record in high-altitude road construction. It has constructed a 52-km long tarmac road through Umlingla Pass, bettering the previous record of a road in Bolivia connecting to its volcano Uturuncu at 18,953 ft.The road now connects the important towns in Chumar sector of Eastern Ladakh. It will prove to be a boon to the local population as it offers an alternate direct route connecting Chisumle and Demchok from Leh. It will enhance the socio-economic condition and promote tourism in Ladakh.
Infrastructure development in such harsh and tough terrain is extremely challenging. During the winter, the temperature dips to -40 degrees and the oxygen level at this altitude is almost 50 percent less than at normal places. The BRO has achieved the feat due to the grit and resilience of its personnel who work in treacherous terrain and extreme weather conditions.The road has been constructed at an altitude higher than the Mt Everest Base Camps as the South Base Camp in Nepal is at an altitude of 17,598 ft, while North Base Camp in Tibet is at 16,900 ft. The road has been constructed much above the altitude of Siachen Glacier which is at 17,700 ft. The Khardung La Pass in Leh is at an altitude of 17,582 ft.
INS TABAR ENTERS PORT STOCKHOLM
INS Tabar, as part of the ongoing Overseas Deployment, entered Port Stockholm last week. This is the first visit of an Indian Navy Ship to Stockholm in nearly two decades. The ship was received by Brig Gen Peder Ohlsson, Deputy Chief of Royal Swedish Navy and Group Captain Pankaj Mittal, Indian Defence Attache (DA) at Sweden. Subsequently, Deputy Chief of Royal Swedish Navy visited the ship and was presented a Guard of Honour onboard. During the walk around, he was explained about the key functionalities of the ship. While extending a warm welcome, he conveyed that Tabar visit to Stockholm would only consolidate the long standing ties between the Indian Navy and the Royal Swedish Navy. Captain Mahesh Mangipudi, the Commanding Officer (CO) presented him with the ship’s crest on completion of the visit.
The Commanding Officer, INS Tabar accompanied by DA, called on Mr Tanmaya Lal, the Ambassador of India to Sweden and Latvia at the Indian Embassy in Stockholm. The CO briefed the Ambassador on the ship’s current deployment and presented him the ship’s crest. The Indian Ambassador during his visit to the ship on 31 Jul 21, conveyed his appreciation for the role played by the Indian Navy in safeguarding the maritime interests of the country, diplomacy through Port Visits and in undertaking HADR tasks as and when needed. The CO also called on the Commandant of Stockholm, Col Thomas Karlsson at the Royal Palace. He was accorded a ceremonial welcome with a Guard of Honour by the Royal Guard. The Commandant and the CO held discussions regarding the current deployment and other issues of mutual interest. A reception for limited guests, adhering to all COVID protocols; was hosted by INS Tabar. Maj Gen Jonas Wikman, Deputy Chief of Joint Operations of the Swedish Armed Forces was the Chief Guest. He was appreciative about the Indian Navy Ship visit to Stockholm and added that the two Navies have considerable potential to partner in combating common maritime concerns.
SEA TRIALS OF INDIGENOUS AIRCRAFT CARRIER ‘VIKRANT’ BEGIN
The ship has over 2,300 compartments, designed for a crew of around 1,700 people, including specialised cabins to accommodate women officers.
Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC) ‘Vikrant’ designed by Indian Navy’s Directorate of Naval Design(DND) is being built at Cochin Shipyard Limited(CSL), a Public Sector Shipyard under Ministry of Shipping(MoS). IAC is a leading example of the nation’s quest for ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ with more than 76% indigenous content. This is the maiden attempt of the Indian Navy and Cochin Shipyard to indigenously design and build an Aircraft Carrier.
The Indigenous Aircraft Carrier is 262 m long, 62 m at the widest part and height of 59 m including the superstructure. There are 14 decks in all, including five in the superstructure. The ship has over 2,300 compartments, designed for a crew of around 1700 people, including specialised cabins to accommodate women officers. The ship has been designed with a very high degree of automation for machinery operation, ship navigation and survivability, ‘Vikrant’ has a top speed of around 28 knots and cruising speed of 18 knots with an endurance of about 7,500 nautical miles. The ship can accommodate an assortment of fixed wing and rotary aircraft.
Most of the ship construction activities have been completed and the ship has entered the trials phase. Readiness of ship’s Propulsion and Power Generation equipment/ systems was tested in harbour as part of Basin Trials in Nov 20. Progress of construction of the Carrier was reviewed by Raksha Mantri during his visit to the ship on 25 Jun 21. Though the commencement of Sea Trials was delayed due to the 2nd wave of COVID, with concentrated and dedicated efforts of large number of workmen, OEMs, engineers, overseers, inspectors, designers and the ship’s crew, who had put their heart and soul towards the ship’s readiness for sea trials. This is a major milestone activity and historical event. Reaching this milestone is significant as they have been achieved barring the current pandemic challenges and imponderables. During the maiden sailing, ship’s performance, including hull, main propulsion, PGD and auxiliary equipment would be closely watched.
With the delivery of IAC, India would join a select group of nations with the capability to indigenously design and build an Aircraft Carrier, which will be a real testimony to the ‘Make in India’ thrust of the Indian Government.The Indigenous construction of Aircraft Carrier is a shining example in the Nation’s quest for ‘Atma Nirbhar Bharat’ and ‘Make in India Initiative’. This has led to growth in indigenous design and construction capabilities besides development of large number of ancillary industries, with employment opportunities for 2000 CSL personnel and about 12000 employees in ancillary industries. Over 76% indigenous content towards procurement of equipment, besides work by CSL and their subcontractors is being directly invested back into the Indian economy. Around 550 Indian firms including about 100 MSMEs are registered with CSL, who are providing various services for construction of IAC.Indian Navy’s ship building programme is rightly poised to provide requisite ‘Economic Stimulus’, with 44 ships & submarines on order being built indigenously.
AIR MARSHAL SURAJ KUMAR JHA ASSUMES CHARGE AS AIR OFFICER IN CHARGE PERSONNEL
Air Marshal Suraj Kumar Jha has assumed the appointment of Air Officer in Charge Personnel at Air HQ. The Air Marshal was commissioned in the Fighter stream of IAF on 08 June 1984. In a career spanning 37 years, the Air Officer has flown over 2900 hours, including operational flying on a wide variety of fighter aircraft in the inventory of IAF.
During his career, the Air Officer has held numerous important appointments. He was the Commanding Officer of a front-line fighter squadron and has also commanded a premier fighter base. As an Air Vice Marshal, he held the coveted appointments of Air Officer Commanding Advance Headquarters, Commandant of College of Air Warfare, Assistant Chief of Integrated Defence Staff at Head Quarter IDS and Joint Secretary (Air) at the newly established Department of Military Affairs under Ministry of Defence. As an Air Marshal prior to taking over the present appointment, he was Deputy Chief of the Air Staff at Air HQ. The Air Marshal is an alumnus of Defence Services Staff College Wellington. In recognition of his service, the Air Marshal was awarded Mention-in-Despatches in 1999 for Kargil Ops and Ati Vishisht Seva Medal in 2021.
INS KHANJAR MAKES MAIDEN VISIT TO GOPALPUR PORT
Indian Naval Ship Khanjar becomes the first Indian Navy ship to call at the heritage coastal port of Gopalpur in Odisha. The two-day visit which concluded on Monday was organised as part of Aazadi ka Amrit Mahotsav as well as Swarnim Vijay Varsh celebrations to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Independence and the 50th anniversary of the 1971 War. The maiden visit of the Naval Ship was aimed at enhancing ties and spreading awareness with the local populace on aspects of coastal security and maritime operations.
During the visit, ship’s officers interacted with Port Officials and discussed aspects related to berthing facilities for OTR of Naval ships and security overview of port infrastructure. The ship’s team also undertook a cleanup drive at Gopalpur beach and tree plantation in the port premises. In addition, books and dry provisions were distributed to Samarth Orthopedically Handicapped Welfare Association, at Chatrapur in Ganjam district.
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