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India’s Options for taming the Dragon at the Border

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At a time when India and China were celebrating seventy years of their bilateral relations, the Chinese fatally and brutally set new, lowered standards of unprovoked and pre-meditated intimidatory behaviour along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), the un-demarcated India-China border. The latest developments to rock the Sino-Indian border engagement started gaining roots in early May 2020 at the Pagong Tso Lake, with China occupying several areas on the Indian side of the LAC in Ladakh, and well as some areas in Sikkim.

Despite agreements and protocols in place, the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) on June 15, 2020, moved along the Galwan valley, the region between the point where the Galwan River enters the Indian side of the LAC and merges into the Shyok river. The Galwan standoff is east of the DSDBO Road (the Darbuk-Shyok-Daulat Beg Oldi Road) that runs along the Shyok River and almost parallel to the LAC. This led to an uncalled-for military transgression by China which led to the border dispute between the two countries to reach new heights with this wanton and illegal attack by the PLA. It led to 20 Indian soldiers being martyred and an unspecified number of PLA fatalities.

The Chinese coercive, belligerent and intimidatory behaviour evidently rests on various stimuli and motivations that acted as the catalytic agent. With the Indian infrastructural development and improvement in India’s military posture, through the completion of the DSDBO Road which provides access to the SSN (Sub-Sector North) and connects Leh to DBO, virtually at the base of the Karakoram Pass and its proximity to Aksai Chin (that is under the illegal occupation of China) and furthermore, the upgradation of the C-130 Hercules capable airfield at DBO, greatly boosted India’s deployment and reinforcement competences, spelling trouble for its adversarial neighbour. While China had coveted the region of Galwan Valley militarily in the pre-Galwan attack period too, the infrastructural developments by India that can help it maintain the neighbourhoods of LAC and the Galwan heights unnerved the Dragon about the possibility of the Indian Army and ITBP progressing to Aksai Chin that was an erstwhile India territory. The Dragon might have felt threatened and exposed, thus, leading to the malicious violent clash where China unilaterally sought to change the status quo.

Moreover, with the world turning against China in the aftermath of the pandemic, India is seen as a major threat to China’s hegemonic ambitions in the South Asian region and also as an important component of the Indo-Pacific strategy and the QUAD, as an ally of US that is the leading anti-China force. Apart from this, India’s open voicing of stakes on Chinese-held Aksai Chin and Pakistan-held Gilgit-Baltistan and AJK, in the aftermath of the abrogation of Article 370 in Jammu and Kashmir, threatens to rupture the Chinese multi-billion dollar investment project, CPEC, the “flagship project” of the One Belt, One Road Initiative of Xi Jinping, if New Delhi is able to re-capture its erstwhile territories.

Furthermore, with the ever-growing nexus between China and Pakistan, there have been increasing reports of Pakistan-sponsored cross border terrorism and infiltration and China sees this as an opportune moment to gain mileage to overpower India in a military standoff, in case the border issue escalates. It militarily ad diplomatically provides assistance and aid to Islamabad, leveraging its capabilities, in order to achieve a strategic hedge over their common enemy, India. A dual attack on India from the “all-weather allies”, hence, might be a strategic calculation by Xi Jinping’s assertive and confrontational China which seeks to build up Pakistan’s nuclear and military capability. With New Delhi focussing on building its infrastructural capacity, comprehensive national power and engaging in addressing the military asymmetry with China, the latter faces more vulnerability and hence, the move by China to lay a political claim up to the Galwan-Shyok convergence for the first time. This can be seen as a catalyst for Chinese provocative military action as all of these factors are evidently perceived as risks by Beijing to its designs and hence, led to its frenzied reaction in the Galwan Valley, presaging as an open attempt by China to reopen the India-China boundary issues by challenging the former’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

The Galwan border crisis has essentially shattered the course of betterment of India-China relations. With China acting out of line and raking up issues pertaining to India’s domestic issues, testing India’s operational capability and further, expanding and deepening its ruthless activities in creating troubled waters for India by engaging in anarchic misdoings, the state of regional geopolitics seems to have moved towards a more volatile and unstable phase. The recent developments along the border and the Chinese propaganda associated with it have dark undertones to it. It is one of the many activities in the grand Chinese strategy of encircling India and in general, its long-held expansionist and hegemonic ambitions. The Chinese intimidation is not just a stray development; it is a signal to a more hostile future in the India-China border, diplomatic and military relations.

In this game of perceptions, actions and reactions, India has to keep a firm stand against Chinese coercion, deterrence, border violations and incursions. While the violation of agreed procedures and other developments at present put the PLA and China under the trust radar, it is also amply clear that there is hardly any congruence between what the two countries mean by de-escalation. While the military and political level talks engendered the possibility of de-escalation and disengagement at the LAC, the back to back visits by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to Ladakh evidenced doubts about China’s actual willingness to disengage in the region and revert to the status quo ante prevailing till April, 2020along the LAC. India, thus, needs to be wary of China’s designs as the country will not compromise on its own territorial integrity and is a known sinister bully seeking to advance its own interests, through its policy of two steps forward, three steps back and also its salami slicing tactics.

With regard to India’s border security, the government has a tough task at hand. India needs to have a robust posture and needs to up its military infrastructure and capability, apart from its information sharing portals along the LAC. With the border at risk from its offensive adversary, India needs take care to not cut slack to Beijing. It cannot upset the regional balance of power and needs to engage in a sterner policy vis-a-vis China and not let the neighbours make a cartographic mockery of the territorial extent of India. Realism needs to be the practice as China is completely indulging in offensive realistic activities, trying to mould the world according to its strategies, and not abiding with the international law.

India, more so, needs to shed its image as a defensive party stuck in a reaction-mode to Chinese belligerent and aggressive posturing in the Himalayas. China has always made it amply clear as to how it does not want to settle the border dispute and it is imperative for India, at the moment to embrace the modernisation in defense and military and take on a new assertiveness in its policy to deal with the Chinese who only engage in aggressive military strength and not diplomatic mechanisms. India needs to engage with favourable allies and strengthen its position. Border tensions with China are a manifestation of the larger issues and in order to deal with the issue at hand, a genesis of the problem from historical perspective is a must and New Delhi needs to keep all its options open.

The author is a graduate in History from Miranda House, University of Delhi and currently pursuing Masters in Politics and International Relations, Pondicherry University.

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Defense

India’s Sprouting Counterforce Posture

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In recent years, the technological advancements by India in the domain of counterforce military capabilities have increased the vulnerability of the South Asian region. While trying to disturb the strategic stability in South Asia, India through its adventuresome counterforce posture against Pakistan is on the verge of becoming a rogue state. Notwithstanding the repercussions, India is voyaging towards destabilization in the South Asian Region.

India’s enhanced strategic nuclear capabilities which includes-the development of Multiple Independent Reentry Vehicles (MIRVs), Ballistic Missile Defence System (BMD), Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), supersonic and hypersonic cruise missiles, and acquisition of nuclear-capable submarines- indicate that India is moving away from its declared policy of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) towards a more aggressive, counterforce posture against Pakistan. The BMD and MIRV technology along with the provision of an advanced navigation system under BECA would embolden India to go for the first strike against Pakistan. While having reliance on BMD, as to be sheltered in return. These technological advancements made by India are sprouting a new era of counterforce posture, which would further make the South Asian region volatile and vulnerable to conflicts.

India’s urge to acquire counterforce capability is strongly associated with its doctrinal shift. As the stated posture requires flexibility in the use of nuclear weapons, which fortifies the first strike capability, and thus a deviation in India’s declared policy of ‘No First Use’ (NFU) has become more significant, particularly concerning its impact on regional stability. India’s declared policy of NFU, set out in Draft Nuclear Doctrine in 1999, followed by its first amendment in January 2003 has since then been into hot debates. Pakistan has long doubted the Indian policy of NFU, as the actions and statements by the officials of the latter have always been aggressive and protruding towards the former. India, now, is drifting away from its policy of NFU with the acquisition of counterforce capabilities, particularly against Pakistan. This is further evident from the statement issued by India’s Defense Minister Mr. Rajnath Singh, back in August 2019. It stated “Till today, our nuclear policy is ‘no-first-use’ (NFU). What happens in the future depends on the circumstances.” A change at the doctrinal level is evident in the Indian strategic enclave. Notwithstanding the challenges and repercussions caused by the counterforce strategy and with an attempt to destabilize the nuclear deterrence in the region, India would go unjustifiably low to attain such measures.  

In the same vein, India has been enhancing its nuclear capabilities for strategic flexibility against its regional rivals. By the same token, it wants to attain nuclear dominance, which would ultimately result in chaos in the region. The counterforce capability by India would compel its adversaries to heed towards the preemptive strike, in case of a crisis, out of the fear of the use of Nuclear weapons first by the patent enemy.  Moreover, the counterforce capability pushes the enemy to put the nuclear weapons on hair-trigger mode, which is directly linked with the crisis escalation.  The acquisition of counterforce capability by India would likely provoke a new arms race in the region. This would further destabilize the already volatile South Asian region. The far-reaching destabilization which India is trying to create, just to have an edge on the nuclear adversary, would be back on India’s face, faster than she knew it.

On the contrary, Pakistan has been maintaining a posture of Credible Minimum Deterrence (CMD) and does not claim to have a No-First Use (NFU) policy. Moreover, Pakistan’s nuclear capability is defensive in principle and a tool for deterrence. Given the Indian evolved notions of counterforce preemption, even now Pakistan would be left with no choice but to leave room for carrying out a ‘first strike’ as a feasible deterrent against India. Nevertheless, with the advent of technological innovations, its countermeasure arrives soon, too. Presently, there are two aspects that Pakistan should take into consideration; the growing Indo-US nexus and India’s concealed innovations in the nuclear posture. Though India is far from achieving counterforce strikes against Pakistan’s nuclear targets, concrete steps are required for maintaining future deterrence stability. With that intention, Pakistan might need to look towards its allies for getting hands-on the modern capabilities which includes- advanced communication and navigation systems, sensors, and advancements in artificial intelligence and otherwise, is essential for strengthening its deterrent capability. Pakistan should heed towards the development of absolute second-strike capability; as, what is survivable today, could be vulnerable tomorrow. Therefore, advancements in technology should be made for preserving nuclear deterrence in the future as well.

Summarizing it all, the existence of Pakistan’s nuclear deterrence has created a stable environment in the region, by deterring full-scale wars on multiple occasions that might have resulted in a nuclear exchange. With the revolution in nuclear technology, the threat of nuclear war has emerged again. Instead of going towards the attainment of peace and stability in the region, India has been enhancing its counterforce capabilities. This would likely remain a significant threat to the deterrence stability in the region. Moreover, any kind of failure to maintain nuclear deterrence in South Asia could result in an all-out war, without any escalation control. India, in its lust for power and hegemonic designs, has been destabilizing the region. Both the nuclear states in South Asia need to engage in arms restraint and escalation control measures. This seems to be a concrete and more plausible way out; else the new era of destabilization could be more disastrous.  

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Defense

A pig in a poke of Lithuanian Armed Forces

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The proverb “a chain is only as strong as its weakest link” perfectly reflects the situation in the Lithuanian armed forces. It is it unclear how the army will carry out its tasks, if everything that happens there runs counter to common sense.

The conscription took place in Lithuania. The recruits once again were revealed by an electronic lottery on January 7, 2021. 3,828 recruits were selected from the list of 38 thousand conscripts aged 18 to 23.

The idea of using electronic lottery in such a serious procedure arises a lot of questions among Lithuanians. Young people are suspicious of this method and fully admit the possibility of corruption. Nobody could check the results and so nobody could be blamed for random selection. The more so, the armed forces could get weaker recruits than in case of using usual ways of choosing among candidates. So, the army buys a pig in a poke.

This approach to recruitment in Lithuania results in presence of those with criminal intents and inclinations. Сases of crimes committed by Lithuanian military personnel have increased. Incidents with the involvement of military regularly occurred in Lithuania in 2020.

Thus, a soldier of the Lithuanian army was detained in Jurbarkas in October. He was driving under the influence of alcohol. A Lithuanian soldier suspected of drunk driving was detained also in Siauliai in December. Panevėžys County Chief Police Commissariat was looking for a soldier who deserted from the Lithuanian Armed Forces and so forth.

Such behaviour poses serious risks to public safety and leads to loss of confidence in the Lithuanian army in society.

Lithuanian military officials have chosen a new way to discourage young people from serving in the army, which is already not popular.

“The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” The ministry of defence decided to run a photo contest that would reflect service in the country’s armed forces. It is doubtful that such pictures will attract to the army, but the real situation is provided.

Usually, popularization is the act of making something attractive to the general public. This contest served the opposite goal. Look at the pictures and make conclusions.

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Defense

Fatah-1: A New Security and Technological Development About Pakistan’s Indigenous GMLRS

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Islamabad: It seems like 2021 has been a good start for Pakistan specifically with regard to stepping up its missile testing. On the 7th of January, the Pakistan military has successfully conducted a purely indigenously developed missile test flight known to be Fatah-1. As stated by various reports, Fatah-1 is an extended-range Guided Multi-Launch Rocket System (GMLRS) which itself is a developed variant of the guided MLRS family.

According to the recent statement given by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) about the newly developed rocket, it was stated: “The weapon system will give Pakistan Army capability of a precision target deep in the enemy territory.” Director-General of Pakistan Army, Media Wing, major general Babar Iftikhar on 7th January tweeted: “Pakistan today conducted a successful; test flight of indigenously developed Fatah-1, Guided Multi Launch Rocket System, capable of delivering a conventional Warhead up to a range of 140 km.”

Defense analyst Mr. Syed Muhammad Ali also stated in his capacity: “the new system was very fast, accurate, survivable, and difficult to intercept”. A video was also shared by ISPR on their official website, in which the missile launch can be seen while being fired from the launcher however, the details on when and where the test flight has taken place, along with the specification of the rocket system are yet to be announced.

Currently, Pakistan Army owns a wide range of Short-Range Ballistic Missiles (SRBM), Medium-Range Ballistic Missiles (MRBM), Battlefield Ballistic Missiles (BBM), Rocket Artillery, and Surface to Surface Cruise Missile (SSCM). In the previous year, Pakistan had also maintained prime success in conducting the Ra’ad-II cruise missile and Ghaznavi surface-to-surface ballistic missile (SSBM). Besides, Pakistan Air Force (PAF) on 30thDecember made apt progress when it comes to the national air defense arsenal as it was announced that PAF is beginning the production of the State-of-the-art JF-17 Thunder Block 3 fighter jets, at the same time acquiring the 14 dual-seat Jf-17 aircraft.

According to various reports, the JF-17 Thunder Block 3 will be said to have a new radar operational capability which will be far better in the practical domain as compared to the Raphael aircraft acquired by India. Whereas, the exchange of 14 dual-seat aircraft, manufactured with Pak-China cooperation were also given to the PAF which will be used for extensive training.

The recent successful testing of Fatah-1 has been considered to be another milestone for Pakistan as it tends to be a fitting response to the recent developments in the conventional capabilities carried out by India and also to India’s Cold Start Doctrine.

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