Connect with us

Defense

India’s Options for taming the Dragon at the Border

Published

on

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.

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

Middle East5 hours ago

The Russian bear in Lebanon

It turned out that the Biden-Putin summit on May 16 has established a wider effect than anyone would expect. It...

Travel & Leisure7 hours ago

Iran’s memories in Afghanistan: two sisters apart

For years, many people including Iranians, have dreamed of visiting Afghanistan and viewing its colorful sights, a beautiful country that...

East Asia9 hours ago

Quad Infrastructure Diplomacy: An Attempt to Resist the Belt and Road Initiative

Over the years, the competition between the great powers in the dual space of the Indian and Pacific Oceans has...

Economy11 hours ago

US Economic Turmoil: The Paradox of Recovery and Inflation

The US economy has been a rollercoaster since the pandemic cinched the world last year. As lockdowns turned into routine...

EU Politics13 hours ago

Commission proposes draft mandate for negotiations on Gibraltar

The European Commission has today adopted a Recommendation for a Council decision authorising the opening of negotiations for an EU-UK...

modi macron modi macron
South Asia15 hours ago

Why France holds the key to India’s Multilateral Ambitions

Authors: Prof. Nidhi Piplani Kapur and K.A. Dhananjay As Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Shringla pitches for permanent membership and reforms...

Americas17 hours ago

As Refugees Flee Central America, the Mexican Public Sours On Accepting Them

Authors: Isabel Eliassen, Alianna Casas, Timothy S. Rich* In recent years, individuals from Central America’s Northern Triangle (El Salvador, Guatemala,...

Trending