Archive for ‘Defence’

23/09/2016

Guns and ghee | The Economist

TO MANY Indians, their country’s strategic position looks alarming. Its two biggest neighbours are China and Pakistan. It has fought wars with both, and border issues still fester. Both are nuclear-armed, and are allies with one another to boot. China, a rising superpower with five times India’s GDP, is quietly encroaching on India’s traditional sphere of influence, tying a “string of pearls” of alliances around the subcontinent. Relatively weak but safe behind its nuclear shield, Pakistan harbours Islamist guerrillas who have repeatedly struck Indian targets; regional security wonks have long feared that another such incident might spark a conflagration.

So when four heavily armed infiltrators attacked an Indian army base on September 18th, killing 18 soldiers before being shot dead themselves, jitters inevitably spread. The base nestles in mountains close to the “line of control”, as the border between the Indian and Pakistani-administered parts of the disputed territory of Kashmir is known. Indian officials reflexively blamed Pakistan; politicians and pundits vied in demanding a punchy response. “Every Pakistan post through which infiltration takes place should be reduced to rubble by artillery fire,” blustered a retired brigadier who now mans a think-tank in New Delhi, India’s capital.

Yet despite electoral promises to be tough on Pakistan, the Hindu-nationalist government of Narendra Modi has trodden as softly as its predecessors. On September 21st it summoned Pakistan’s envoy for a wrist-slap, citing evidence that the attackers had indeed slipped across the border, and noting that India has stopped 17 such incursions since the beginning of the year. Much to the chagrin of India’s armchair warriors, such polite reprimands are likely to be the limit of India’s response.

There are good reasons for this. India gains diplomatic stature by behaving more responsibly than Pakistan. It is keenly aware of the danger of nuclear escalation, and of the risks of brinkmanship to its economy. Indian intelligence agencies also understand that they face an unusual adversary in Pakistan: such is its political frailty that any Indian belligerence tends to strengthen exactly the elements in Pakistan’s power structure that are most inimical to India’s own interests.

But there is another, less obvious reason for reticence. India is not as strong militarily as the numbers might suggest. Puzzlingly, given how its international ambitions are growing along with its economy, and how alarming its strategic position looks, India has proved strangely unable to build serious military muscle.

India’s armed forces look good on paper. It fields the world’s second-biggest standing army, after China, with long fighting experience in a variety of terrains and situations (see chart).

It has topped the list of global arms importers since 2010, sucking in a formidable array of top-of-the-line weaponry, including Russian warplanes, Israeli missiles, American transport aircraft and French submarines. State-owned Indian firms churn out some impressive gear, too, including fighter jets, cruise missiles and the 40,000-tonne aircraft-carrier under construction in a shipyard in Kochi, in the south of the country.

Yet there are serious chinks in India’s armour. Much of its weaponry is, in fact, outdated or ill maintained. “Our air defence is in a shocking state,” says Ajai Shukla, a commentator on military affairs. “What’s in place is mostly 1970s vintage, and it may take ten years to install the fancy new gear.” On paper, India’s air force is the world’s fourth largest, with around 2,000 aircraft in service. But an internal report seen in 2014 by IHS Jane’s, a defence publication, revealed that only 60% were typically fit to fly. A report earlier this year by a government accounting agency estimated that the “serviceability” of the 45 MiG 29K jets that are the pride of the Indian navy’s air arm ranged between 16% and 38%. They were intended to fly from the carrier currently under construction, which was ordered more than 15 years ago and was meant to have been launched in 2010. According to the government’s auditors the ship, after some 1,150 modifications, now looks unlikely to sail before 2023.

Such delays are far from unusual. India’s army, for instance, has been seeking a new standard assault rifle since 1982; torn between demands for local production and the temptation of fancy imports, and between doctrines calling for heavier firepower or more versatility, it has flip-flopped ever since. India’s air force has spent 16 years perusing fighter aircraft to replace ageing Soviet-era models. By demanding over-ambitious specifications, bargain prices, hard-to-meet local-content quotas and so on, it has left foreign manufacturers “banging heads against the wall”, in the words of one Indian military analyst. Four years ago France appeared to have clinched a deal to sell 126 of its Rafale fighters. The order has since been whittled to 36, but is at least about to be finalised.

India’s military is also scandal-prone. Corruption has been a problem in the past, and observers rightly wonder how guerrillas manage to penetrate heavily guarded bases repeatedly. Lately the Indian public has been treated to legal battles between generals over promotions, loud disputes over pay and orders for officers to lose weight. In July a military transport plane vanished into the Bay of Bengal with 29 people aboard; no trace of it has been found. In August an Australian newspaper leaked extensive technical details of India’s new French submarines.

The deeper problem with India’s military is structural. The three services are each reasonably competent, say security experts; the trouble is that they function as separate fiefdoms. “No service talks to the others, and the civilians in the Ministry of Defence don’t talk to them,” says Mr Shukla. Bizarrely, there are no military men inside the ministry at all. Like India’s other ministries, defence is run by rotating civil servants and political appointees more focused on ballot boxes than ballistics. “They seem to think a general practitioner can perform surgery,” says Abhijit Iyer-Mitra, who has worked as a consultant for the ministry. Despite their growing brawn, India’s armed forces still lack a brain.

Source: Guns and ghee | The Economist

23/09/2016

India signs deal for 36 French fighter jets to counter China, Pakistan squadrons | Reuters

India signed a deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from France on Friday for around $8.7 billion, the country’s first major acquisition of combat planes in two decades and a boost for Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s plan to rebuild an ageing fleet.

The air force is down to 33 squadrons, against its requirement of 45 to face both China, with which it has a festering border dispute, and nuclear-armed rival Pakistan.

French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian signed the agreement with his Indian counterpart, Manohar Parrikar, in New Delhi, ending almost 18 months of wrangling over terms between New Delhi and manufacturer Dassault Aviation.

India’s defence ministry said it would confirm the exact price later on Friday, but a ministry official said it was 7.8 billion euros ($8.7 billion).

Air force officials have warned for years about a major capability gap opening up with China and Pakistan without new state-of-the-art planes, as India’s outdated and largely Russian-made fleet retires and production of a locally made plane was delayed.

India had originally awarded Dassault with an order for 126 Rafales in 2012 after the twin-engine fourth-generation fighter beat rivals in a decade-long selection process, but subsequent talks collapsed.

Modi, who has vowed to modernise India’s armed forces with a $150 billion spending spree, personally intervened in April 2015 to agree on the smaller order of 36 and give the air force a near-term boost as he weighed options for a more fundamental overhaul.

The first ready-to-fly Rafales are expected to arrive by 2019 and India is set to have all 36 within six years.

Dassault Aviation said in a statement it welcomed the contract signing.

($1 = 0.8920 euros)

Source: India signs deal for 36 French fighter jets to counter China, Pakistan squadrons | Reuters

04/09/2016

China says should constructively handle disputes with India | Reuters

Chinese President Xi Jinping told Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday that the two countries should respect each other’s concerns and constructively handle their differences.

The two nuclear-armed neighbours have been moving to gradually ease long-existing tensions between them.

Leaders of Asia’s two giants pledged last year to cool a festering border dispute, which dates back to a brief border war in 1962, though the disagreement remains unresolved.

Meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in the eastern Chinese city of Hangzhou, Xi said relations had maintained a steady, healthy momentum, and should continue to increase mutual understanding and trust.

“We ought to respect and give consideration to each other’s concerns, and use constructive methods to appropriately handle questions on which there are disputes,” Xi said, in comments carried by China’s Foreign Ministry.

“China is willing to work hard with India the maintain the hard-won good position of Sino-India relations,” Xi added.

China’s Defence Ministry said last month that it hoped India could put more efforts into regional peace and stability rather than the opposite, in response to Indian plans to put advanced cruise missiles along the disputed border with China.

Indian military officials say the plan is to equip regiments deployed on the China border with the BrahMos missile, made by an Indo-Russian joint venture, as part of ongoing efforts to build up military and civilian infrastructure capabilities there.

China lays claim to more than 90,000 sq km (35,000 sq miles) ruled by New Delhi in the eastern sector of the Himalayas. India says China occupies 38,000 sq km (14,600 sq miles) of its territory on the Aksai Chin plateau in the west.

India is also suspicious of China’s support for its arch-rival, Pakistan.Modi arrived in China from Vietnam, which is involved in its own dispute with China over the South China Sea, where he offered Vietnam a credit line of half a billion dollars for defence cooperation.Modi’s government has ordered BrahMos Aerospace, which produces the BrahMos missiles, to accelerate sales to a list of five countries topped by Vietnam, according to a government note viewed by Reuters and previously unreported.

Source: China says should constructively handle disputes with India | Reuters

29/07/2016

Why India Is Spending $1 Billion on Boeing Jets – The Short Answer – WSJ

India is beefing up its maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare capabilities with an order for four Boeing Co.-made P-8I aircraft.

The order is the latest evidence of booming defense ties between India and the U.S. The South Asian nation’s arms imports from the U.S. in the five years through 2015 were 11 times the amount in the previous five years, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

India imported 14% of its weapons from the U.S. in the same period, although its longstanding supplier Russia continued to dominate its defense market with a 70% share, according to the think tank.

India spent how much?

India will pay about $1 billion for the four P-8I planes. That is about half the amount the country spent in 2009 for eight of the aircraft. That order had an option for India to acquire four more jets at the 2009 price, something it is exercising now.

What can the planes do?

The P-8I—a military variant of Boeing 737-800 commercial jetliner—is fitted with state-of-the-art sensors and radars for maritime surveillance and reconnaissance, and to snoop on submarines. It can also be fitted with the Harpoon all-weather anti-ship missiles made by Boeing.

The aircraft–a variant of the U.S. navy’s P-8A Poseidon plane–can also be used for anti-piracy and other intelligence operations. It was deployed in 2014 when India joined the multinational search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. It is currently being used in the search for an Indian air force AN-32 aircraft that went missing on Friday over the Bay of Bengal.

Why does India want the jets?

The latest acquisition of the P-8I is a milestone in India’s strategy to replace its aging equipment, much of which was bought from Russia during the Soviet era. The twin-engine jet has a range of about 2,222 kilometers, or more than 1,200 nautical miles, which allows the Indian navy to monitor the country’s vast coastline.

Has this got anything to do with China?

India’s expansion of the P-8I fleet comes as China increases its naval presence in the Indian Ocean, alarming New Delhi.

In recent years, China has been improving its submarine power with a nuclear-powered sub travelling all the way to the Persian Gulf via Sri Lanka. China and India are also locked in a long-running land-border dispute.

The new planes will bolster India’s capabilities to keep an eye on movement on Chinese warships and submarines in the region.

What else is on the shopping list?

India’s government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has promised to upgrade the country’s military capabilities. But a long-delayed deal to buy 36 Rafale fighter jets from Dassault Aviation S.A. of France is still being negotiated–more than a year after it was announced.

India also has plans to buy howitzers, warships, submarines, as well as to acquire fighter jets.

Source: Why India Is Spending $1 Billion on Boeing Jets – The Short Answer – WSJ

16/06/2016

U.S., India and Japan Begin to Shape a New Order on Asia’s High Seas – India Real Time – WSJ

From the waters of the Philippine Sea this week emerged a partial outline of Washington’s vision for a new Asian maritime-security order that unites democratic powers to contend with a more-assertive and well-armed China.

A U.S. Navy aircraft-carrier strike group along with warships from India and Japan jointly practiced anti-submarine warfare and air-defense and search-and-rescue drills in one of the largest and most complex exercises held by the three countries.

The maneuvers were being tracked by a Chinese surveillance vessel, a U.S. Navy officer aboard the carrier USS John C. Stennis said on Wednesday. Last week, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Beijing hoped the training “will be conducive to regional peace, security and stability.

”Washington and Tokyo have long cooperated closely on defense. And the U.S. has been working to deepen strategic ties with India and to encourage New Delhi to play a more active role, not just in the Indian Ocean but also in the Pacific, as China’s rise shifts the regional balance of power.

Americans are looking for those who can share the burden,” said C. Raja Mohan, director of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace’s India center. A strengthened three-way partnership among the U.S., Japan and India is “an important strategic shift.”

Source: U.S., India and Japan Begin to Shape a New Order on Asia’s High Seas – India Real Time – WSJ

20/02/2016

Pathankot Attack: Pakistan Begins Formal Police Investigation – India Real Time – WSJ

Pakistan has launched a formal police investigation into the alleged involvement of Pakistan-based militants in a deadly attack on an Indian air force base last month, senior government and police officials said Friday.

Six heavily-armed militants attacked the Pathankot air force base on Jan. 2, sparking a battle with Indian forces that lasted more than 40 hours, killed seven Indian security personnel and threatened to dismantle a tentative improvement in relations between Islamabad and New Delhi.

India suspected Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammad, a U.S.-designated foreign terrorist group, was behind the Pathankot attack, and demanded Pakistan take action against the perpetrators.

Source: Pathankot Attack: Pakistan Begins Formal Police Investigation – India Real Time – WSJ

06/01/2016

Pathankot attack: Congress asks Modi to ‘fix responsibility’ – The Hindu

Scaling up the offensive against the government over Pathankot terror attack, the Congress on Wednesday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to fix responsiblity for the “grave security lapse” and suggested that some heads must roll.

People light candles during a memorial service for the Indian soldiers killed in a militant attack at Pathankot air base, in Mumbai on Tuesday.

“They should realize that it has gone wrong and resignations should happen. If there is a lapse, resignations should happen,” former Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde told reporters at the AICC briefing when repeatedly asked whether Congress is demanding resignation of Home Minister Rajnath Singh or Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar into the matter.

“This government has totally failed. It has no system in place to protect the nation,” he added.

AICC Communication Department chairman Randeep Surjewala also said that the Prime Minister should fix the responsibility and take action against the Home and Defence Ministers.

“First responsibility is of the Prime Minister as he is the head of the government. Then Defence Minister and Home Minister are also responsible as they deal with the matter.

The Prime Minister should act decisively and not merely talk. “The Prime Minister should fix responsibility for this negligence and he reaches to the same conclusion that the nation has arrived at that there has been a huge lapse in the nation’s security, he should then take action against the Defence Minister and the Home Minister,” Surjewala said.

The party asked whether the Prime Minister and the BJP government would explain as to who was responsible for the “grave security lapse” as terrorists managed to reach Pathankot Air Base despite advance intelligence alert and reporting of prior incident.

Source: Pathankot attack: Congress asks Modi to ‘fix responsibility’ – The Hindu

31/12/2015

It’s official: China building second aircraft carrier as concern mounts over claims to South China Sea | South China Morning Post

China on Thursday confirmed it is building a second aircraft carrier, as its neighbours worry about Beijing’s new assertiveness to claims in the South China Sea.

Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning cruises for a test on the sea. Photo: AP

Defence Ministry spokesman Yang Yujun said the carrier had been designed in China and was being built in the port of Dalian in Liaoning province. The construction drew on experiences from the country’s first aircraft carrier, the Liaoning, bought from Ukraine in 1998 and refitted in China.

Source: It’s official: China building second aircraft carrier as concern mounts over claims to South China Sea | South China Morning Post

23/09/2015

Command and lack of control | The Economist

IF THE People’s Liberation Army (PLA) were a company, it would be about to lose its position as the world’s largest corporate employer. When troop cuts recently announced by Xi Jinping, China’s president, are completed in 2017, the ranks of China’s armed forces will have shrunk by 300,000 to 2m, putting it just behind Walmart, a retailer (see chart). It would still be by far the world’s largest military outfit.

When the downsizing was announced, at a big military parade on September 3rd, the cuts seemed no more significant than a round of corporate redundancies. Mr Xi’s own explanation—that they would help the PLA to “carry out the noble mission of upholding world peace”—also seemed to come straight from the gobbledygook of corporate obfuscation.

But recent commentary in China’s state media suggests that the reductions may presage something more: a long-overdue reform of the command structure of the PLA and a shift in the balance of the main military services. If so, one of the most important subsidiaries of the Chinese state is in for a shake-up.

The army has long been the senior service. Almost three quarters of active-duty personnel are soldiers. The navy and air-force chiefs did not have seats on the main institution for exercising civilian control over the armed forces, the Central Military Commission, until 2004. It was only in 2012 that an officer outside the ranks of the army became its most senior military figure. The army’s dominance is a problem at a time when China is expanding its influence in the South China Sea and naval strategy is looming larger.

Moreover, there has long been a split within the PLA between combat forces (which kill the enemy) and other operations (logistics, transport and so on) which are regarded as secondary. But in modern, high-tech warfare, non front-line services such as those responsible for cyberwarfare and electronic surveillance often matter more than tanks and infantry.

Embodying these outdated traditions is a top-heavy, ill-co-ordinated structure with four headquarters and seven regional commands. Many Chinese analysts argue that, as now constituted, the PLA would not be able to conduct modern information-intensive military operations which integrate all the services properly.

China has long talked about military reform. In late 2013 Mr Xi told fellow leaders that the command system for joint operations was “not strong enough”. It was duly announced that China would “optimise the size and structure” of the armed forces. China Daily, an English-language newspaper, said that a “joint operational command system” would be introduced “in due course”.

It now appears that these changes are under way. Mr Xi was recently quoted in PLA Daily, a newspaper, saying that “we have a rare window … to deepen [military] reform”. It is possible that Mr Xi’s anti-corruption purge, which has taken aim at two men (one now dead) who were once the country’s most powerful military figures, as well as 50 other generals, may have weakened opposition enough for change to begin.

The South China Morning Post, a newspaper in Hong Kong, recently published what it described as a radical plan devised by military reformers. This would scrap three of the four headquarters, reduce the number of regional military commands to four and give a more prominent role to the navy. It remains to be seen whether Mr Xi will go that far. But there is no doubt that, in order to fulfil what he calls China’s “dream of a strong armed forces”, he wants a leaner, more efficient PLA. To China’s neighbours, that would make it even more frightening.

Source: Command and lack of control | The Economist

06/07/2015

Rivals Pakistan, India to start process of joining China security bloc | Reuters

Nuclear-armed rivals Pakistan and India will start the process of joining a security bloc led by China and Russia at a summit in Russia later this week, a senior Chinese diplomat said on Monday, the first time the grouping has expanded since it was set up in 2001.

Photo

The Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) groups China, Russia and the former Soviet republics of Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, while India, Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan and Mongolia are observers.

“As the influence of the SCO’s development has expanded, more and more countries in the region have brought up joining the SCO,” Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cheng Guoping told a news briefing.”India and Pakistan’s admission to the SCO will play an important role in the SCO’s development. It will play a constructive role in pushing for the improvement of their bilateral relations.”

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947, two of them over the divided Muslim-majority region of Kashmir which they both claim in full but rule in part. Pakistan also believes India is supporting separatists in resource-rich Baluchistan province, as well as militants fighting the state.

India applied to join the regional security grouping last year and SCO foreign ministers gave a positive recommendation when they met in June. “We await further developments,” said Sujata Mehta, a senior foreign ministry official.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be in Moscow for a summit of the BRICS group of emerging markets and both he and his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, will attend a special SCO “outreach” session as part of the gathering.

Pakistan’s application is being considered, said foreign ministry spokesman Qazi Khalilullah. “We hope they will support us for full membership,” he added.

The grouping was originally formed to fight threats posed by radical Islam and drug trafficking from neighboring Afghanistan.

Cheng said the summit, to be attended by Chinese President Xi Jinping, would also discuss security in Afghanistan.

Beijing says separatist groups in the far western region of Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur minority, seek to form their own state, called East Turkestan, and have links with militants in Central Asia, as well as Pakistan and Afghanistan.

China says Uighur militants, operating as the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), have also been working with Islamic State.

“It can be said that ETIM certainly has links with the Islamic State, and has participated in relevant terrorist activities. China is paying close attention to this, and will have security cooperation with relevant countries,” Cheng said.

via Rivals Pakistan, India to start process of joining China security bloc | Reuters.