Connect with us

Defense

The Year of Return of Military Parades and its Six Dimensions on International Affairs

Published

on

The year 2019 witnessed impressive military parades of the US and other regional powers. US President Donald Trump had floated the idea of having a parade in the USA in 2018 (10 November) to honour the veterans. He had been impressed by the July 2017 Bastille Day Military Parade in Paris which he witnessed during his visit to France at the invitation of the French President Emmanuel Macron. Eventually, the “Salute to America” event was held on 4 July 2019 at the National Mall in Washington DC with accompanying presentations of US military vehicles, flyovers by military aircraft and a fireworks display. Donald Trump became the first POTUS to address a crowd at the National Mall on Independence Day in 68 years. In his speech, he stressed the uniqueness of the United States calling it “a truly extraordinary heritage…one of the greatest stories ever told…” He referred to the American “…spirit of daring and defiance, excellence and adventure, courage and confidence, loyalty and love…” and stressed “…our nation is stronger today than it ever was before. It is its strongest now.” Expectedly, he spoke about USA’s military prowess and its victories at the various battlefields across the world; about the American heroes through the centuries; and the resilience of the American society. Another remarkable feature of the speech was that he was sure of his country’s unity and bullish about her future.   

Chinese President Xi Jinping led the Communist Party leadership at the military parade marking 70 years of CPC rule in October 2019. His speech was remarkable for its sense of confidence about China’s rise and the steely determination to fight each and every challenge to Party rule. The international media (as did the Chinese media) gave prominent coverage to his statement that there “…is no force that can shake the foundation of this great nation.” This was consistent with his concepts of China Dream and National Rejuvenation. The review of the military parade comprising about 15,000 personnel, 160 aircraft and 580 pieces of military equipment, including drones and missiles was the other major highlight of the event. The world also saw, for the first time, the Dongfeng 41, a nuclear-capable missile that could reportedly reach the United States in 30 minutes. This year’s military parade was the second after Xi Jinping assumed power. The earlier one was held in 2015 and captioned as the “70th Anniversary of the Victory of the Chinese People’s War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War“. Whilst in the case of India, the annual January Republic Day parade is notable for its showcasing of the country’s military might, in 2019, the Indian Air Force Day parade held on 8 October was quite significant for a number of reasons. It may be recalled that a MiG 21 Bison in February 2019 was shot down by Pakistan forces. The same day, in France, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh received the first of the 36 Rafale aircraft. He used the occasion to tell the media that the first Rafale squadron would be ready by February 2021 to deal with the threats from Pakistan.

Interestingly, DPRK [North Korea] did not hold a military parade in February this year on the occasion of the anniversary of the founding of its army. Foreign media observed that the then impending US-DPRK leaders’ summit was the reason for the development. By contrast, in September 2018, the hermit kingdom celebrated its 70th anniversary with a large military parade. To round up the broad-brush coverage, it would be pertinent to mention the annual French Bastille Day Military Parade that was held in July this year when the focus was on European cooperation besides the announcement of the creation of a new French national military space force command. In another continent, during the month of September, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro used the Independence Day celebrations to try and recover from the poor public relations of the previous months connected with his right-wing economic decision making as well as the response to the Amazon fires. This year’s Moscow Victory Day parade was a primer for the 75th Diamond Jubilee celebrations of the Allied victory in Eastern Europe over the Axis powers in May 2020.

Quite apart from the usual stated objectives of display of national might and determination, these military parades have certain unstated objectives. A combination of these two sets of objectives require careful study in each case. For example, were domestic politics alone responsible for the criticism within the US that President Trump’s push for a parade received. The Chinese parades of 2015 and 2019 taken together sends carefully choreographed signals to its geopolitical competitors, and friends and foes alike. The calling off of the 2019 military parade of the DPRK due to political considerations is now well acknowledged. Suffice it to state, some of these factors have been around for a while, and the next section will attempt to assess the likely impact of military parades on contemporary international relations.

The Six dimensions

It is possible to identify six dimensions of the impact of military parades. But a caveat has to be entered at the outset: given the episodic nature of parades, a direct cause effect impact relationship cannot be conclusively established in each and every case. What follows are broad brush trends, most of which would require further study and analysis.

First, the rise of muscular nationalism is a clearly visible manifestation. Addressing the protests that were taking place in Hong Kong, Xi Jinping said during his speech at the military parade in 2019 that his government would “maintain long-term prosperity and stability of Hong Kong and Macao.” The 2019 Chinese Defense White Paper titled China’s National Defense in the New Era articulates explicit references to Naval Parades in the South China Sea. One should not forget the CCPs ongoing generation long narrative reminding its population of the Century of Humiliation.

Indian media reported that the Air Force Day celebrations were used, amongst other things, to call Pakistan’s bluff on certain specific details about the true extent of casualties in the aftermath of Balakot. How such positioning would impact on already frayed or fraying equations with other foreign countries is an important dimension here. On the flip side, as was seen during the medium-range ballistic missile and armed drone attacks by the Houthi group on a military parade in Aden (Yemen) in August this year, the risk of exposure during a parade remains.

Secondly, with each passing year such parades are testimony to the enhanced willingness of nation states to use coercive means of statecraft. Between 2015 and 2019, the PR China took a clear stand against the order of the Permanent Court of Arbitration on the South China Sea case with The Philippines (The Republic of the Philippines v. The People’s Republic of China) and even accelerated its activities in those islands and waters. Under President Trump the emphasis on national security has been quite exceptional even by American standards. The re-ordering of the Middle East power equations has given a boost of confidence for the Russian Federation and one can safely speculate that this would get reflected in the Diamond Jubilee Moscow Victory Day parade next year. On the other hand, the 2018 DPRK military parade was noticed for the fact that it did not include any intercontinental ballistic missiles which were a staple in almost all previous editions.

Third, and quite interestingly, there appears to be no clear pattern of linkage between economic growth rates and military parades. Even as its economic growth rate was being downgraded by the IMF, the Islamic Republic of Iran was holding an impressive series of military parades during their sacred defense week in September 2019. At the same time, the US parade in July this year took place at a time when the American economy was growing at a healthy rate. Having said this, it would be worthwhile for analysts to study these linkages in deeper detail. Military parades have shone the spotlight on the flourishing military industrial complexes in these countries. This has been most pronounced in the case of China. The connection between the Huawei company and the Chinese PLA has come under the spotlight in the context of the on-going 5G related differences between China on the one hand and the US, Japan and a few Western countries on the other. The other country that merits mention in this context is Pakistan where the armed forces runs around 50 commercial entities and receives over 20 percent of the annual budget.

Fifthly, the increased salience of the military parades is occurring at a time when there is flux in the post-World War II alliance systems and multilateral institutions. The most obvious manifestation is the recent public disagreement between the French and German leaders on the issue of the NATO. On the other hand, China and Russia which were close to a nuclear war in the 1960s have built up a strong strategic partnership. Another aspect worth mentioning is that parades reflect new structures created during the process of military reforms with their attendant repercussions for military diplomacy.

Sixth and finally, the jury is still out on the relationship between military parades on disarmament and arms control. As the Newsweek rightly pointed out in an article, China’s arsenal of medium and intermediate-range weapons, including the so-called “Guam killer” DF-26 gives it a distinct advantage over Washington and Moscow, which in 1987 signed the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty banning such weapons. One perspective is that these parades provide an opportunity to signal the deterrent effect of such weapons. Another perspective is that each such display of deadly systems is a dramatic snapshot of spiraling arms races.

Dr. Sunod Jacob The Peninsula Foundation Former Legal Advisor, ICRC Former Associate Professor of Law, GD Goenka University The author can be reached at sunod.jacob[at]thepeninsula.org.in

Continue Reading
Comments

Defense

Test of Agni Prime Missile and India’s Counterforce Temptations

Published

on

South Asia is widely regarded as one of the most hostile regions of the world primarily because of the troubled relations between the two nuclear arch-rivals India and Pakistan. The complex security dynamics have compelled both the countries to maintain nuclear deterrence vis-à-vis each other. India is pursuing an extensive and all-encompassing military modernization at the strategic and operational level. In this regard, India has been involved in the development of advanced missiles as delivery systems and improvement in the existing delivery systems as well. Pakistan’s nuclear deterrent and delivery systems are solely aimed at India; however, India aspires to fight a ‘two-front war’ against Pakistan and China. Therefore, the size and capability of its nuclear deterrent and delivery systems are aimed at countering both threats. However, most of the recent missile delivery systems made by India appear to be more Pakistan-centric. One recent example in this regard is the recently tested nuclear-capable cannisterized ballistic missile Agni Prime, which is insinuated as Pakistan-centric. These developments would likely further provoke an action-reaction spiral and would increase the pace of conflict in South Asia, which ultimately could result in the intensification of the missile arms race.

Just quite recently, on 28th June 2021, India has successfully tested an advanced variant of its Agni missile series, namely Agni Prime or Agni (P). The missile has a range between 1000-2000 kilometers. Agni Prime is a new missile in the Agni missiles series, with improved accuracy and less weight than Agni 1, 2, and 3 missiles. It has been said that the Agni-P weighs 50 % less than the Agni-3 missile. As per the various media reports, this missile would take the place of Agni 1 and 2 and Prithvi missiles, however officially no such information is available. This new missile and whole Agni series is developed as part of the missile modernization program under the Defence Research and Development Organization’s (DRDO) integrated guided missile development program. 

Agni-P is a short missile with less weight and ballistic trajectory, the missile has a rocket-propelled, self-guided strategic weapons system capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads. Moreover, the missile is cannisterized with the ability to be launched from road and rail. The DRDO claimed that the test flight of the missile was monitored by the telemetry radar stations and its trajectory met all the objectives of the mission successfully with high level of accuracy. Agni-P missile because of its range of 1000 to 2000 km is considered a weapon against Pakistan because within this range it cannot target China. Although, India already has different missiles in its inventory with the same range as the newly developed and tested Agni-P missile, so the question arises what this missile would achieve. 

Since the last few years, it has been deliberated within the international security discourse that India’s force posture is actually more geared towards counterforce options rather than counter-value options. Although, India’s nuclear doctrine after its operationalization in 2003, claims  “massive retaliation” and “nfu” but in reality with developing cannisterized weapons like Agni-P, Agni 5, and testing of hypersonic demonstrative vehicles, India actually is building its capability of “counterforce targeting” or “splendid first strike”. This reflects that India’s nuclear doctrine is just a façade and has no real implication on India’s force modernization.

These developments by India where it is rapidly developing offensive technologies put the regional deterrence equation under stress by increasing ambiguity. In a region like South Asia, where both nuclear rivals are neighbors and distance between both capitals are few thousand kilometers and missile launch from one side would take only a few minutes in reaching its target, ambiguity would increase the fog of war and put other actors, in this case, Pakistan in “use it or lose it” situation, as its nuclear deterrent would be under threat.

In such a situation, where Pakistan maintains that nuclear weapons are its weapons of last resort and to counter threats emerging from India, its nuclear deterrence has to hold the burden of covering all spectrums of threat. It might be left with no choice but to go for the development of a new kind of missile delivery system, probably the cannisterized missile systems as an appropriate response option. However, as Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence is based on principle of “CMD” which allow Pakistan to seek deterrence in a cost-effective manner and also by not indulging in an arms race. Therefore, other than the threat of action-reaction dynamic developments like Agni P by India, would make weapons more accurate and lethal, subsequently conflict would be faster, ambiguous, and with less time to think. In such a scenario, as chances of miscalculation increase, the escalation dynamics would become more complex; thus, further undermining the deterrence stability in South Asia.

India’s counter-force temptations and development of offensive weapons are affecting the deterrence equilibrium in South Asia. The deterrence equation is not getting affected just because India is going ahead with the development of offensive technologies but because of its continuous attempts of negating the presence of mutual vulnerability between both countries. Acknowledgement of existence of mutual vulnerability would strengthen the deterrence equation in the region and help both countries to move forward from the action-reaction spiral and arms race. The notions such as the development of offensive or counterforce technology or exploiting the levels below the nuclear threshold to fight a war would not be fruitful in presence of nuclear weapons. As nuclear weapons are weapons to avert the war and not to fight the war.

Continue Reading

Defense

Unmanned Aircraft Systems & The Annihilistic Future

Published

on

The unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), commonly known as drones were introduced as a useful means to military, commercial, civilian and humanitarian activities but yet it ends up in news for none of its original purposes. Drones have rather resulted as a means of mass destruction.

The recent attacks on the technical area of the Jammu Air Force Station highlights the same. This was a first-of-its-kind terror attack on IAF station rather the Indian defence forces that shook the National Investigation Agency to National Security Guard. The initial probe into the attacks directs to involvement of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist group based out of Pakistan, in the drone attacks as the aerial distance from the point of attack was just 14 kilometers. The attacks took place via an Electric multi-rotor type drone between 11:30 P.M to 1:30 A.M on 27th June, 2021.

The above incident clearly points out the security issues that lie ahead of India in face to the asymmetrical warfare as a result of drones. The Indian Government after looking at the misuse of drones during the first wave of the pandemic realised that its drone regulations were nowhere sufficient and accountable and hence passed the Unmmaned Aircraft Rules, 2021. These rules imposed stricter requirement for obtaining license and authorisations by remote pilots, operators, manufacturers or importers, training organisations and R&D organisations, thereby placing a significantly high burden on the applicants but at the same time they also permit UAS operations beyond visual sight of line and allowing student remote pilots to operate UAS.

But these rules still don’t have any control on the deadly use of drones because multi-rotor drones are very cheap and readily available and what makes them lethal is their ability to be easily detected, additionally the night time makes it even worse. Their small size grants them weak radar, thermal, and aural signatures, albeit varying based on the materials used in their construction.

The pertinent issue to be understood here is that these rules can never ensure safety and security as they cannot control the purpose for which these drones maybe used. There are certain factors that are to be accounted to actually be receptive to such imminent and dangerous threats. Firstly, significantly increasing urban encroachments  in areas around defence establishments, particularly air bases, has proved to be fatal. If frontline bases like Jammu or be it any other base when surrounded by unbuffered civilization poses two pronged problems, first it acts as high chances of being a vantage point for possible attackers and second, it also hampering the defence mechanism to come to an action. It is not limited to drone concerns but there have been cases of increased bird activity that has once resulted in engine failure of an IAF Jaguar and has caused similar problems all along.

Another important factor is that of intelligence. The Anti-drone systems will take their time to be in place and it is still a distant call to ascertain how effective will these systems be, so in the time being it is pertinent to focus on intelligence which may include sales and transfers of commercial drone, or the hardware that is required to build a basic multi-rotor drone. These are not something extraordinary because it is even in news when Pakistani drones were being used to supply weapons and ammunition to terror networks on Indian soil. Also, the past experience in handling ISIS have shown the weightage of intelligence over defensive nets.

Intelligence is no doubt a crucial factor in anticipation of drone attacks but what cannot be done away with is the defense mechanism. Efficient counter-drone technology is the need of the hour. DRDO has developed such technology that could provide the armed forces with the capability to swiftly detect, intercept and destroy small drones that pose a security threat. It is claimed that solution consists of a radar system that offers 360-degree coverage with detection of micro drones when they are 4km away, electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) sensors for detection of micro drones up to 2 km and a radio frequency (RF) detector to detect RF communication up to 3 km and is equipped for both soft kills as well as hard kills.

Hence, the above analysis brings out the need of the application of an international instrument because the technology used in such drone attacks is at an evolving stage and the natural barriers still have an upper hand over be it either flying a pre-programmed path aided by satellite navigation and inertial measurement units (IMUs), or hand controlled to the point of release or impact, both methods have significant limitations as satellite and IMU navigation is prone to errors even when it comes to moderate flight ranges while manual control is subject to the human limitations such as line of sight, visibility as well as technical limitations such as distance estimation of the target, and weak radio links. An example of this could be the Turkish-made Kargu-2 model of killer drone can allegedly autonomously track and kill specific targets on the basis of facial recognition and Artificial Intelligence (AI). As the AI becomes better and better, these drone attacks become more and more terminal.

The recent COVID-19 pandemic is an eye opener for India as well as the world as none of the countries considered the possibility of bio-defenses or made a heavy investment in it even when there was awareness about lethal effects of genetic engineering. Hence, it should be the priority of the government to invest heavily in research and make the development of defensive technologies a national priority else the result of artificially intelligent killer drones would be much more catastrophic.

Continue Reading

Defense

Russia’s National Security Strategy: A Manifesto for a New Era

Published

on

The central feature of the new strategy is its focus on Russia itself. The Russian leadership has every reason right now to turn homeward to address the glaring weaknesses, imbalances, and inequalities of the country’s internal situation.

Russia’s new, forty-four-page National Security Strategy signed by President Vladimir Putin on July 2 is a remarkable document. It is much more than an update of the previous paper, adopted in 2015. Back then, relations with the West had already sharply deteriorated as a result of the Ukraine crisis, but were still considered salvageable; much of the liberal phraseology inherited from the 1990s was still in use; and the world still looked more or less unified. The current version of arguably the most important Kremlin strategy statement—covering not only national security issues, but a whole range of others, from the economy to the environment, and values to defense—is a manifesto for a different era: one defined by the increasingly intense confrontation with the United States and its allies; a return to traditional Russian values; and the critical importance for Russia’s future of such issues as technology and climate.

The strategy lays out a view of a world undergoing transformation and turmoil. The hegemony of the West, it concludes, is on the way out, but that is leading to more conflicts, and more serious ones at that. This combination of historical optimism (the imminent end of Western hegemony) and deep concern (as it is losing, the West will fight back with even more ferocity) is vaguely reminiscent of Stalin’s famous dictum of the sharpening of the class struggle along the road to socialism. Economically, Russia faces unfair competition in the form of various restrictions designed to damage it and hold it back; in terms of security, the use of force is a growing threat; in the realm of ethics, Russia’s traditional values and historical legacy are under attack; in domestic politics, Russia has to deal with foreign machinations aimed at provoking long-term instability in the country. This external environment fraught with mounting threats and insecurities is regarded as an epoch, rather than an episode.

Against this sobering background, the central feature of the strategy is its focus on Russia itself: its demographics, its political stability and sovereignty, national accord and harmony, economic development on the basis of new technologies, protection of the environment and adaptation to climate change, and—last but not least—the nation’s spiritual and moral climate. This inward focus is informed by history. Exactly thirty years ago, the Soviet Union collapsed just as its military power was at its peak, and not as a result of a foreign invasion. Having recently regained the country’s great power status and successfully reformed and rearmed its military, the Russian leadership has every reason now to turn homeward to address the glaring weaknesses, imbalances, and inequalities of the country’s internal situation.

The paper outlines a lengthy series of measures for dealing with a host of domestic issues, from rising poverty and continued critical dependence on imported technology to the advent of green energy and the loss of the Soviet-era technological and educational edge. This certainly makes sense. Indeed, the recent Kremlin discovery of climate change as a top-tier issue is a hopeful sign that Russia is overcoming its former denial of the problem, along with inordinately exuberant expectations of the promise of global warming for a predominantly cold country. After all, the Kremlin’s earlier embrace of digitalization has given a major push to the spread of digital services across Russia.

The strategy does not ignore the moral and ethical aspects of national security. It provides a list of traditional Russian values and discusses them at length. It sees these values as being under attack through Westernization, which threatens to rob the Russians of their cultural sovereignty, and through attempts to vilify Russia by rewriting history. In sum, the paper marks an important milestone in Russia’s official abandonment of the liberal phraseology of the 1990s and its replacement with a moral code rooted in the country’s own traditions. Yet here, the strategy misses a key point at the root of Russia’s many economic and social problems: the widespread absence of any values, other than purely materialistic ones, among much of the country’s ruling elite. The paper mentions in passing the need to root out corruption, but the real issue is bigger by an order of magnitude. As each of President Putin’s annual phone-in sessions with the Russian people demonstrates—including the most recent one on June 30—Russia is governed by a class of people who are, for the most part, self-serving, and do not care at all for ordinary people or the country, instead focusing single-mindedly on making themselves rich on the job. Money—or rather Big Money—has become that group’s top value, and the most corrosive element in today’s Russia. Therein lies perhaps the biggest vulnerability of modern Russia.

On foreign policy, the strategy is fairly elliptic, but it gives a hint of what the upcoming Foreign Policy Concept might include. The United States and some of its NATO allies are now officially branded unfriendly states. Relations with the West are de-prioritized and those countries ranked last in terms of closeness, behind former Soviet countries; the strategic partners China and India; non-Western institutions such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, BRICS, and the Russia-India-China trio; and other Asian, Latin American, and African countries. In addition to U.S. military deployments and its system of alliances, U.S.-based internet giants with their virtual monopoly in the information sphere, and the U.S. dollar that dominates global finances are also seen as instruments of containing Russia.

Overall, the 2021 Russian National Security Strategy seeks to adapt the country to a still interconnected world of fragmentation and sharpening divisions, in which the main battle lines are drawn not only—and not even mostly—between countries, but within them. Victories will be won and defeats suffered largely on domestic turf. Accordingly, it is the Home Front that presents the greatest challenges, and it is there that the main thrust of government policies must be directed.

From our partner RIAC

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Development50 mins ago

ADB Calls for Just, Equitable Transition Toward Net Zero in Asia and Pacific

Asian Development Bank (ADB) President Masatsugu Asakawa today called for countries in Asia and the Pacific to take bold action...

Green Planet2 hours ago

Oil, acid, plastic: Inside the shipping disaster gripping Sri Lanka

It’s visible in satellite images from just off Sri Lanka’s coast: a thin grey film that snakes three kilometres out...

Terrorism4 hours ago

A question mark on FATF’s credibility

While addressing a political gathering, India’s external affairs minister  S. Jaishanker made a startling lapsus de langue “We have been...

Human Rights7 hours ago

UNSC calls for ‘immediate reversal’ of Turkish and Turkish Cypriot decision on Varosha

The Security Council said in a statement released on Friday that settling any part of the abandoned Cypriot suburb of Varosha, “by people other than...

Americas8 hours ago

Biden Revises US Sanctions Policy

In the United States, a revision of the sanctions policy is in full swing. Joe Biden’s administration strives to make sanctions instruments more effective in achieving his...

South Asia10 hours ago

Unleashing India’s True Potential

As India strives to unleash its true potential to rise as a global powerhouse, it is tasked with a series...

New Social Compact12 hours ago

Demand for Investigation of COVID-19 gained momentum

Human history is full of natural disasters like Earthquakes, Floods, Fires, Vacanos, Drought, Famine, Pandemic, etc. Some of them were...

Trending