UNITED STATES, CHINA, RUSSIA AND STRATEGIC BALANCING BY INDIA - The Daily Guardian
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UNITED STATES, CHINA, RUSSIA AND STRATEGIC BALANCING BY INDIA

Maj Gen S.B. Asthana (Retd.)

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The recent public disclosures about US policy of accelerating India’s rise through diplomatic, military and intelligence support to contain China indicates that the US-China strategic competition will continue in 2021, along with the trade war, as a long term policy, with Joe Biden’s Administration as well. It is understandable that uniting America and fighting pandemic will be highest on the priority list of the new President, but his office bearers have given enough hints to work with allies and strategic partners as essential part of US strategy against China, having recognised it as a competitor and vice versa.

China, despite internal pressures like protests in Hong Kong and some jolts in economic and infrastructure ventures, has been posing a brave front. It has been able to gravitate Russia and Iran towards it and is in the process of colonising Pakistan. This leaves India in a state of strategic balancing between the US, Russia and Iran to get the best out of such a strategic scenario. The diplomatic task of doing so is becoming increasingly difficult as Putin indicates possible alliance with China (perhaps to put caution on New US Administration), Iran signs $ 400 billion deal with China and India struggling to maintain strategic autonomy, under pressure of CAATSA threat on S-400 deal, post sanctioning of Turkey and heavy dependence of military hardware and spares on Russia.

China will continue to assert more on the South China Sea, Taiwan Strait and Eastern seaboard. In Indo-Pacific region, India will stand for freedom of navigation and flights, rule-based order, use of global commons in international waters, but any showdown with China is unlikely, because Quad, despite its upgradation to Foreign Ministers level, is still not a military alliance to threaten China. The ideas of Quad plus or grouping of democracies (D10) is yet to take any shape. South China Sea and Taiwan Strait will continue to witness aggressive military posturing, just short of a confrontation, as the redlines of Taiwan going nuclear or China attacking Taiwan have not been crossed. It gives room for US strategy of ambiguity of not formally junking One China Policy, strengthening various agreements with Taiwan, selling state of the art equipment and continuing FON missions in Taiwan Strait. The invitation to Taiwanese envoy to the oath-taking ceremony on Capitol Hill indicates no change in US stance from earlier administrations. This gets further confirmed as U.S. aircraft carrier group led by the USS Theodore Roosevelt entering the South China Sea to promote “freedom of the seas” on the same day, when Taiwan reported a large incursion of Chinese bombers and fighter jets into its air defence identification zone in the vicinity of the Pratas Islands.

PLA will continue to improve its maritime and other capabilities for expeditionary roles in Indo-Pacific and beyond, to support its Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) and protect its SLOC. India in conjunction with other Navies will have to increase stakes for the PLA Navy in Indian Ocean, besides continuing with its own capability development. China is aware of its vulnerabilities in Indian Ocean and will avoid being drawn into any confrontation in this region, except visits of Chinese submarines to their potential bases/surveillance missions and some more build up on the bases acquired by them through ‘Debt Trap Diplomacy’. India will have to join other friendly navies as mentioned above, to make best use of Chinese vulnerability in the maritime domain in Indo-Pacific region.

SINO- PAKISTANI NEXUS AND TWO-FRONT WAR

The ongoing standoff at LAC, Chinese compulsion of pushing BRI/CPEC through, has further increased the strategic relevance of Pakistan for China. A major side effect of abrogation of Article 370 and internal reorganisation of J&K into two UTs, has been the strengthening of Sino-Pak collusion in military and non-military affairs, which led to China taking up the Kashmir agenda to UNSC twice and elections in Gilgit Baltistan. China has increased its efforts to develop military capability of Pakistan, use of its Army and its terror potential. China will ignore state sponsored terrorism by Pakistan, as it indirectly contains India’s growth and reduces its impact in South Asia; hence has managed to stop India from heading al-Qaeda sanction Committee in UNSC.

The terror industry and hybrid war by Pakistan will continue in 2021, notwithstanding their economic difficulties. Whenever Pakistan is on the verge of sinking, some country will bail it out, to foster its own interest through Pakistan, because of their strategic location/terror potential. As Year 2021 finds US troops reduced to 2500, Taliban may be in the driving seat in Afghanistan, with conglomeration of many terror groups like ISKP, al-Qaeda, AQIS, Haqqani network and others, which may develop capability to strike the US mainland and India, if not checked. Ceding that strategic space to China and Pakistan is against the security interest of India and the US. The recent statements of Secretary of Defence of US in Biden’s Administration indicate recognition of the role of Pakistan in dealing with Afghanistan as before, has a cost, because now Pakistan’s autonomy is hostage to China, which wasn’t the case when Democrats were in power last time. India will continue to be apprehensive of Biden’s reliance on Pakistan, which will have to be factored by the Pentagon, if China is the competitor.

It may be interesting to note that Pakistan’s terror industry is mainly sustained by a parallel economy involving drug trade, extortion and assistance from ISI, with material and operational support from Pakistan Army. The efforts of FATF and IMF may show some check on terror funding by formal economic resources, but not on the parallel terror economy, as the linkage between the two is not as tight as it is made out to be. Pakistan is unlikely to get blacklisted by FATF even in 2021, because it will be able to find three countries to oppose such move, which is adequate to avoid blacklisting, however it might continue to be in grey list, despite its best efforts to hoodwink FATF by sham arrests of some key terrorists prior to its meeting in Feb 21. Pakistan seems to have done well for itself in information warfare, initiating false propaganda against India, which has mitigated its criticism amongst domestic as well as global audience. Pakistan will continue to operate and plan terror operations against India in 2021, as in past, with greater effort to destabilise Kashmir to undo Indian effort for inclusive growth of Jammu and Kashmir.

The progress on CPEC is likely to continue despite Indian opposition and some domestic opposition inside Pakistan, although, BRI will continue to face many roadblocks globally. CPEC will fully make Pakistan a colony of China, which is already into a client- Patron relationship, where strategic choices of Pakistan are hostage to China. This brings out a long-term threat to India in terms of ‘Two-front war’ for which India has to be compulsorily prepared for. India’s intention to take back Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK) will need shaping of the international environment, affected population and waiting for appropriate time, giving higher priority to Ladakh standoff first.

Part 2 of the 3-part article.

The writer is a strategic and security analyst, a veteran Infantry General with 40 years’ experience in national & international fields and UN.

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Defence

BRO restores connectivity to 13 border villages of Uttarakhand

Ashish Singh

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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.

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Defence

Army inaugurates community radio station in North Kashmir

Ashish Singh

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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.

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Defence

DRDO CONDUCTS SUCCESSFUL FLIGHT TEST OF SOLID FUEL DUCTED RAMJET

Ashish Singh

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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.

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Defence

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.

Ashish Singh

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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.

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Defence

Assam Regimental Centre conducts attestation parade in Shillong

Ashish Singh

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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.

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Defence

Passing out parade of 58 Gorkha Training Centre

Ashish Singh

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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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