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Tag Archives | Indian Army

Down to Chinatown

When the mouthpiece of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) labels your country a security threat, you will probably sit up and take notice.  The Global Times published the results of a pulse survey where 90% of the respondents indicated that China’s security was threatened by India.  The article provides a rare insight into the political machinations of Big Red.

India’s military moves could cast a shadow over bilateral relations, said Dai Xun, an expert in military affairs, who described India’s actions as “plundering a burning house”, when the international community was focused on a reported nuclear test in the DPRK, destroying the mutual trust between neighboring countries

The pollster, huanqiu.com, also hosts a defense and strategic affairs Internet chat forum, which is very much in the mold of many other defense forums —  mostly filled with bravado and rhetoric, and generally lacking in pragmatism.  But what makes this blogger take notice isn’t so much that such distorted numbers existed, but that a mouthpiece newspaper for the CCP would publish these results, and pass them off as having merit.  The website also polled users on other questions concerning India, a translation of which is included here.

After all, the most recent World Public Opinion (2008), indicated that while there was a general antipathy towards India in China (44% had an unfavorable opinion of India), the statistics were not nearly as skewed as the newspaper article suggests.

All this because of  reports that India is deploying an additional two divisions (mainly light infantry) and two SU-30MKI squadron in Arunachal Pradesh, which China considers “disputed”, and part of “Southern Tibet”.  However, while the dispatching of additional firepower to Arunachal Pradesh is a welcome sign, it merely acts as a deterrent in the here and now to Chinese misadventurism and doesn’t really give India the sense of parity that it needs along the McMahon Line.  Indeed, the most urgent need in Arunachal is not in the deployment of additional troops, per se, but in the development of border infrastructure.

China has worked feverishly to ensure that sufficient infrastructure is in place to be able to quickly move troops and supplies from as far out as Lhasa to the border through land and air.  That India has withdrawn from over 40 border roads projects committed through the Border Roads Organisation (BRO) doesn’t help make matters better.

The recent brouhaha about India in the Chinese press certainly means that China is concerned about India’s growing presence in Arunachal Pradesh.  The deployment of additional troops, and the presumtive refocusing on BRO projects in Arunachal are baby steps, but essential and need to be taken. Manmohan Singh’s government has been blisfully asleep to China’s growing presence in the Indian Ocean and the leverage it now has with India’s neighbors, Nepal, Myanmar and Sri Lanka.  This, aside from the “all weather” friendship that it has with Pakistan.  The time has come for India to formulate a strategic response to China’s growing influence in the region. One can only hope that India’s message to China vis-a-vis troop deployments, are only part, and not the full extent of India’s reply to China’s hegemoneous designs.

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"People give the Indian army a lot of leeway…"

More pearls of wisdom from the Writer Formerly Known As Sane, Arundhati Roy.  She recently hopped across the border to Pakistan to really sink her fangs into the country she calls home.  Speaking at the Karachi Press Club, she talks about the Taliban, the ongoing operation in Swat, Siachen, Indian elections, and the RSS, among other things.  True to her form, Arundhati talks at a tangent, jumping from one unrelated topic to the next.

What makes people like her and Praful Bidwai particularly dangerous isn’t the fact that they speak out against the institution.  It’s that they speak out by distorting facts and drawing parallels between issues that have no logical correlation to support their agendas.  Don’t let them tell you they don’t have an agenda. They do. Everyone does.  Here’s Arundhati at her prattling best:

Each day (Siachen glacier)  is being filled with ice axes, old boots, tents and so on. Meanwhile, that battlefield is melting. Siachen glacier is about half its size now. It’s not melting because the Indian and Pakistani soldiers are on it. But it’s because people somewhere on the other side of the world are leading a good life….in countries that call themselves democracies that believe in human rights and free speech. Their economies depend on selling weapons to both of us.

Each day, apparently, the glacier is being filled with “old boots”; I’m not even sure what she’s talking about here. Her concern clearly couldn’t be environmental, since the “substance” behind the drivel appears to be to apportion blame to the US (aka “democracies that believe in human rights and free speech”) for selling weapons to “both of us” with which the two above-fault former colonial nations fight wars they are conned into waging by the conniving West.  Only problem here is that India didn’t really receive any weapons from the US that it used to fight Pakistan in Siachen.  A convenient falsehood to support her anti-US agenda, certainly, and no different from the mindset of the Pakistani establishment that affixes blame on everyone but itself for the situation it finds itself in.  But wait, there’s more:

The RSS has infiltrated everything to a great extent..The RSS has infiltrated the (Indian) army as much as various kinds of Wahhabism or other kinds of religious ideology have infiltrated the ISI or the armed forces in Pakistan.

Clearly, she’s taking issue with Lt. Col. Purohit and his ilk in re the Malegaon attacks.  But the act of one man, as deplorable as it was, can hardly be equated to the fundamentalist indoctrination of an entire army over the course of 62 years that led it to slaughter 3 million civilians because they belonged to different ethnic and religious persuasions.  Apart from Purohit, what other examples does Arundhati Roy have of an RSS “infiltration” into the army? To be clear, the Indian army is battling infiltration.  But it isn’t from the RSS.  An inconvenient truth that Roy chooses to ignore.

Arundhati continues:

The Indian army is quite a sacred cow especially on TV and Bollywood.I think it is a sacred cow. People are willing to give them a lot of leeway.

Forgive me, but the armed forces of a developing nation that chooses to mind its own business and not stick its nose into political affairs deserves all the credit it gets.  The Indian army isn’t perfect. No army is.  Sure, the media chooses to turn a blind eye to the army’s conduct in Kashmir and Sri Lanka.  But the fact that India has had a virtually unblemished record in democracy since independence (a singular rarity in the developing world) is enough proof that this is an army unlike any other, and if it does get any leeway, it is well deserved.

Arundhati Roy is successful in the sense that her utter ignorance compels people like me to respond and set right the things that this malingering cretin masks with her eloquence.  The fact that she can string a couple of sentences together in English is often mistaken by India’s elite and the Western media as indicative of her mastery over subjects she has no experience in.  I’ve taken issue with Roy before as I take issue with her today.  Abinav Kumar, in his response to Roy’s much published diatribe right after the 26/11 terrorist attacks, said that Arundhati Roy suffered from a failure of the imagination.  I beg to differ.  Arundhati Roy suffers from a failure of the mind.

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Aero India 2009: The Drama Continues

Aero India 2009 kicked off in the Garden City on February 11, 2009, with firms from 25 countries showcasing their hardware in a quest for the supposed multi-billion dollar contracts that the Indian military is going to hand out in the years ahead. Defense Minister AK Anthony was on site, claiming confidently that there was no question of scaling down the defense budget in times of economic recession. He’s right. There’s no question about it, because scaling down the defense budget is already a foregone conclusion.

The fact that a country with the third largest armed forces in the world and a GDP growth of 7.1% amidst global economic downturn would peg its defense budget at a beggarly 1.98% of GDP is a colossal embarrassment. Compare that against China’s defense budget (4.7% of GDP), or even that of Pakistan’s (4.5%), whose revenue consists almost exclusively of dole money from the US, China and Saudi Arabia.

Worse, an inefficient defense procurement mechanism has resulted in a dearth of military hardware and parts, so much so that even the abysmal defense allocations of previous annual budgets have not been fully utilized. Given the circumstances, the rational reader will be justified in questioning why there should be an increase in defense budget allocation at all.  The procurement bottleneck notwithstanding, this biennial aero-drama in Bangalore continues unabated, with many firms eying that lucrative $9 billion, 126 multi-role combat aircraft (MRCA) deal intended to replace the Indian Air Force (IAF) backbone MiG-21 “Flying Coffin” aircraft.

The only problem being that the Defense Ministry has harped on about this proposed phase-out since 1998. American firms Boeing and Lockheed flaunted their F/A-18s and F-16s respectively in the hopes of hitting the motherload, while Russia rolled out the MiG-35 “Fulcrum-F”. France and Sweden threw their lot into the race with the Dassault Rafale and JAS-39, respectively. However, 11 years, 3 administrations, and 5 defense ministers later, India is still to decide on the vendor, much less enter into price and/or technical negotiations with anyone. Meanwhile, our air force faces critical shortages, most noticeable in the sharp reduction of the number of squadrons from 39.5 to about 30 within a span of seven years.

IAF also faces a shortage of advanced jet trainers (AJTs), with only about 20 of the expected 35 Hawk AJTs being currently operational. The most pressing shortage that can’t be outsourced to foreign service firms is in trained pilots — the headcount is currently 400 below par. About the only (relative) success story has been the (almost) on-time delivery of Israeli Phalcon Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) last month. The AWACSs will be mounted onto IL-76 transporters and will give the IAF the ability to detect missile movement deep within enemy territory.

Israel’s ability to translate demand into delivered product on schedule is a promising sign and indicative of a reliable long term supplier. That Israel has been fairly resistant to Beijing and Washington’s earlier protests against providing India advanced technology is also a good sign. At Aero India’09, Israel demonstrated its third-generation AWACS (called “Conformal Airborne Early Warning and Control System”, or CAEW) which have already been inducted into the Israeli Air Force in 2006.  The wildcard in the Indo-Israeli military equation is India’s political leadership, which shows neither the urgency to plug gaping defense holes, nor the capacity for strategic thought.

In conclusion, while the Surya Kiran’s aerobatics may light up the skies of Bangalore with mesmerizing tinges of saffron, white and green, this biennial platform is meaningless if the Defense Ministry isn’t willing to commit to an overhaul of its procurement mechanism, maintain a well trained and motivated yoke of pilots, and put its money where its mouth is with regard to defense budget allocation.

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November 25th Mumbai Terror Attacks

The Taj Hotel in South Mumbai was the scene of the attack

The Taj Hotel in South Mumbai was the scene of the attack

Another day and another terror attack in another Indian city has left almost 100 people dead and hundreds injured.  The scale of the attack — spread across two five-star hotels, a hospital, the Victoria Terminus, and other parts of South Mumbai — is stunning.  Quite obviously, this can’t be the work of an impromptu assemblage of disgruntled extremists.  The planning, the weaponry used, and the coordinated execution points to a very well planned attack, executed by very well trained, possibly even professionally trained, attackers.  A group that I’ve never heard of before, the Deccan Mujaheddin, claimed responsibility for the attack.  It would be premature to dismiss this as an attempt to divert attention from the real terrorist group, just because this is a name that we’re not familiar with.  This group, if in fact it exists, could be an alliance of sorts between foreign terror groups and intelligence services, such as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) and Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), which provided the ammunition and/or the money, and Indian terror groups and their backers such as the Indian Mujaheddin (IM) and SIMI, which provided the logistics and the plan. That the terrorists were apparently looking for civilians with American or British passports leads me to believe that this couldn’t entirely be the handiwork of Indian terror groups, if at all they were involved at any level.  Terrorism in India is very localized and it isn’t the M.O. of local terror groups to target foreigners.  The objectives of terror groups in India fall into two broad categories — (a) to seek retribution (against Hindus, law enforcement agencies, the State, etc.) for what they see as injustices, or (b) to inflict damages so unbearable that it would demoralize India into conceding independence to the state of Jammu and Kashmir.

While it’s quite clear that these local terror groups wouldn’t’ be fans of the United States or of the United Kingdom, I don’t believe that their objectives would be pan-Islamic.  If it does turn out to be true that they were targeting Western interest in the city, then this would be the first such incident, and one that adds a dimension that draws India into the fold of “mainstream” terrorism.

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