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Changing dynamics in the SCS and increasing Chinese aggression



In a statement released by the US Department of State on September 27 highlighted that China has not kept its promise of non-militarisation of islands under its control in the South China Sea as well as its military outposts located in the region. Instead China has deployed a number of surfaces to air cruise missiles, installed radar domes, and stationed anti-ship missiles in those islands. It has developed signal intelligence capabilities, built new hangers for fighter jets, and extended existing runways which can support its maritime surveillance aircraft operations. The US Department of State has specified that the China has no maritime legal claims in South China Sea, and should desist from using military outposts to threaten neighbours. In fact, lately the role of the maritime militia and the accompanying Coast Guard ships has drawn the attention of the US navy. The US navy has made strong objections to this strategy, and the assertive activities which deter the littoral countries in conducting legitimate fishing activities in the high seas, and the development of the hydrocarbon resources in the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of the countries.

In the past it has been seen that China has tried to forcefully impose the three-month fishing ban in South China Sea, and has deprived the littoral countries in conducting their hydrographic surveys and other related scientific projects. In July and August there has been dangerous manoeuvres conducted between the US and Chinese navies. This was supported with surveillance sorties which have been conducted by both the major powers. In the statement, the US has affirmed that it will standby its Southeast Asian allies and partners. This statement made by the US Department of State comes after US has imposed restrictions on certain PRC state-owned enterprises and has enlisted 24 such enterprises under the sanctions list. Under this list it has been made very clear that any US enterprise or associated private enterprises would not assume by default that the permission has been granted for interacting with any of these Chinese entities for business or investment purposes.

One of the entities which have been severely affected because of its inclusion in the sanctions list is the China Communications Construction Company (CCCC) which has been involved in developing more than 3200 acres of reclaimed land in the disputed features in Spratly islands. The press release which was made on the eve of imposition of sanctions has clarified that the dredging activity which has been taken by the Chinese companies have caused environmental degradation, and has done irreversible damage to the marine life in the region. It categorically stated that that US would make sure that Chinese military activities and its expansionist agenda is kept under control. In fact, this draws upon the consistent US stance with regard to the Chinese reclaimed islands since 2012, and was repeated again in July 2020 when it has stated very clearly that China cannot claim maritime zones and offshore resources across the region as these are illegitimate, and have no standing under the UNCLOS.

The US has strongly advocated that it stands for a “Free and Open Indo Pacific”, and would make sure that the rules-based international order is applicable in South China Sea. US has time and again stated that China has no legal claims to unilaterally impose its economic zones and its claims on the adjoining waters in the Spratly Islands.

Referring to the July 2016 PCA decision with regard to South China Sea, the US has specifically stated that China cannot claim Exclusive Economic Zone under the Scarborough reef and the Spratly Islands. It has also made strong objections to the harassment of the fishermen from Philippines, and categorically criticised Chinese activities which are detrimental to the exploitation of sea bed sources. It strongly advocated that China has no claims to the Mischief Reef and even rejected PRC claims for 12 nautical mile territorial seas for these reclaimed islands. Interestingly, US also referred to Chinese maritime sorties in the Vanguard Bank located just short of Vietnam’s EEZ, and took strong note of the fact that China has been undertaking certain activities which amount to harassment of other states fishing vessels and hydrocarbon exploration ships.

Subsequently, there has been strong rejoinder and support with regard to Malaysia’s submission on the expanse of continental shelf in the South China Sea which has been ably supported by other ASEAN members including Vietnam, Philippines, Brunei, and Indonesia. Brunei which has been slightly selective in airing its response to the developments in the South China Sea, has also made tacit reference to the increasing militarisation of the disputed seas. Indonesia, which has not been the direct claimant to this SCS islands dispute, has also mentioned that Chinese Coast Guard ships which accompany Chinese fishermen militia have been harassing Indonesian fishermen in the waters of the Natuna islands. Multiple times it has been seen that Indonesian navy had to intervene and drive away the Chinese coast guard ships to protect the fishing zone which lies within its maritime sovereign borders.

Since August 2020 it has been witnessed that China has been firing missiles into the disputed waterways and has tried to intimidate military exercises conducted by other nations including the US. Further, with the excessive fishing done by the Chinese trawlers it has been observed that the fishing stocks in the South China Sea have depleted significantly, raising tensions among the littoral countries. China has been providing nearly USD $7.2 billion of subsidies to its fishermen so that they can sustain longer in the South China Sea and catch higher yield per boat. One of the strategies that the Chinese fishermen adopt Is that they a change the flags of their boats so as to fish even within the legitimate EEZ of other countries.

Despite knowing very well that increased military actions in South China Sea might lead to military flare up between US and China, China has been conducting military drills in the Bohai and Yellow seas, particularly aimed at mobilising its North Sea fleet alongside with South Sea fleet. PLN has been simulating exercises so as to mobilise large forces in case of intervention in Taiwan or threatening US aircraft carrier groups in South China Sea. China has been mobilising its fighter jets and conducting surveillance sorties between Philippines and Taiwan to know the response time of the Taiwanese Air Force, and thwart any possible intervention by the US navy or air force at time of crisis.

The exercises across East China Sea and South China Sea have disturbed regional peace and security in the two regions. On August 28, China even used its carrier killer missiles in South China Sea as an act of warning to the United States Navy. US surveillance plane has allegedly violated the Chinese airspace and it was cited as a reason for conducting these threatening missile launches.

Early this month Vietnam has made categorically statement that the military drills conducted by China will severely impede the discussions and negotiations related to the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea, and also continued military drills would hamper the development of a maritime code in the SCS. Vietnam being the Chairperson of the ASEAN has been taking due cognizance of the developments, and has repeatedly warned that these kinds of escalation would make things difficult in the region. As a result of these recent developments, the US military has deployed 120 aircraft and more than 12,000 troops for enforcing its presence in the region. These military activities are likely to impede any kind of negotiation process or de-escalation of tensions which might impact the post-Covid economic recovery. 

Pankaj Jha is faculty with Jindal School of International Affairs, O P Jindal Global University, Sonepat. He can be reached at pankajstrategic[at]

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India’s Sprouting Counterforce Posture



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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A pig in a poke of Lithuanian Armed Forces



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



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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