Defence cooperation for strategic outreach
In today's rapidly globalising world India cannot afford to 'go it alone' any longer. There is a clear attempt on India's part to cooperate with major Asian powers to maintain peace and stability in the southern Asian and northern Indian Ocean regions
With its growing economy and gradually increasing military power, India is looking increasingly outwards to safeguard wider national interests, particularly its sea lanes of communication. Since the 1998 nuclear tests at Pokhran, India has entered into strategic partnerships with most major powers, including the United States, and is becoming increasingly conscious that it must fulfil its responsibilities as an emerging Asian power.
Unlike in the past when it remained steadfastly non-aligned, in today's rapidly globalising world India cannot afford to 'go it alone' any longer - even if it still shuns military alliances. The bilateral strategic partnerships that India is engaged in building with France, Japan, Russia, the United Kingdom and the US, among others, hinge around varying levels of defence cooperation. While small-scale tactical-level exercises have been held by the armies and the air forces, the navies have consistently raised the bar and have been conducting large-scale manoeuvres.
Large naval exercises are not new to the Indian Ocean region and the Indian Navy has always participated in them with relish. From 1949 up to the 1965 war, the Indian Navy joined other Commonwealth navies, including Australia, Britain, and Pakistan, to participate regularly in exercises called Joint Exercises Trincomalee. Then the Royal Navy pulled out of the Indian Ocean and the US Sixth and Seventh Fleets sailed in to fill the vacuum. As Indo-US relations were estranged, especially after tough sanctions were imposed on India consequent to the Pokhran-I nuclear test in May 1974, the Indian Navy became isolated in the region. The first joint exercises with the US Navy, part of the Malabar series, were held in 1994 when Indo-US defence cooperation was revived.
The knee-jerk reactions that followed the Pokhran-II nuclear explosions in May 1998 soon gave way to a more rational international appraisal of India's emergence as a Southern Asian military power and many navies began to call on India's ports. The Indian Navy soon began to exercise with the navies of Britain, France, Indonesia, Oman, Russia, Thailand, Singapore and the US. In addition to these bilateral exercises in the Indian Ocean, the Indian Navy availed the opportunity of port calls to Australia, China, Japan and New Zealand to carry out limited exercises in their waters.
From bilateral exercises to multilateral ones, which reduce sailing time and costs and multiply operational benefits, was but a short step. Till then the largest ever multinational exercise in the Indian Ocean, Malabar 07 was conducted in the Bay of Bengal by the navies of Australia, Japan, India, Singapore and the US in the first week of September 2007. Over two dozen destroyers, corvettes, submarines and three aircraft carriers (USS Nimitz, USS Kitty Hawk and INS Viraat) and a large number of shore-based aircraft participated in the week-long exercise. Since then these exercises have been conducted regularly.
New Great Game in Asia
The Malabar exercises are conducted to understand and learn from each other's tactics, techniques and procedures, augment levels of interoperability and show presence for enhancing maritime security in the Indian Ocean region. The declared aims of these naval exercises are to practice joint patrolling of international sea lanes; anti-piracy measures; procedures for disaster relief; and, casualty evacuation. There is clearly an underlying message in these annual exercises that has not gone unnoticed in the intended quarters. Much like the Great Game played out in Central Asia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the major Asian powers and the US are jostling for advantage to maintain the balance of power in Asia.
India is a reluctant newcomer to this new Great Game. Several pointers mark the power play in force. China, Russia and the Central Asian Republics have come together to form the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) to guard their own interests and balance ASEAN and APEC. China is assiduously engaged in pursuing a "string of pearls" doctrine that is clearly aimed at the strategic encirclement of India and has been flexing its military muscle in the South China Sea. China has created client states around India that are dependent on China for their major arms purchases (Bangladesh, Myanmar, Sri Lanka and Pakistan). By making inroads into Nepal and building ports at Gwadar (Pakistan), Hambantota (Sri Lanka) and in Myanmar, China is not only jockeying to safeguard the sea lanes over which its oil and gas flow but also attempting to confine India to the backwaters of the Bay of Bengal and the Arabian Sea.
Former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe had suggested a "quadrilateral" meeting between Australia, Japan, India and the US some months ago. This move raised China's suspicions and the recent multilateral exercise have fuelled these further. China formally queried the Japanese about the underlying motives as it became apprehensive that the four democracies were likely to gang up against it. Chinese scholars and analysts dubbed this loose group of democracies as an Asian NATO in the making. The quadrilateral is unlikely to become a cooperative military venture as India does not join military alliances and prefers to maintain its strategic autonomy. Also, the Chinese, Indian and Russian foreign ministers have met four times in the last three years though both China and India gave a lukewarm response to a former Russian PM Yevgeny Primakov's proposal for a strategic triangle between the three of them.
In keeping with its growing power and responsibilities, India has been steadily enhancing its expeditionary and military intervention capabilities. These growing capabilities have been amply demonstrated in recent times. During the 1991 Gulf War, India had airlifted 150,000 civilian workers who had been forced to leave Iraq, from the airfield at Amman, Jordan, over a period of 30 days. This was the largest airlift since the Berlin airlift at the end of World War II. During the South East Asian tsunami in 2004, the Indian armed forces were in the forefront of rescue and relief operations. Over 70 Indian Navy ships had set sail with rescue teams and relief material in less than 72 hours of the disaster even though the Indian people on the eastern seaboard had themselves suffered horrendously. Indian naval ships on a goodwill visit to European countries during the Lebanon war in 2006 lifted and brought back 5,000 Indian civilian refugees.
India is set to join the world's major powers in terms of its ability to undertake out of area contingency operations. With the arrival of INS Jalashwa, the erstwhile USS Trenton, India's strategic sea-lift capability has been upgraded to lifting one infantry battalion at a time. India is considering the acquisition of more such ships. The SU-30 MKI long-range fighter-bombers with air-to-air refuelling capability that India acquired from Russia, the C-130J Special Forces transport aircraft from the US and the AWACS and maritime surveillance capabilities that India intends to build over the next five to 10 years, will give India considerable strategic outreach. However, India has consistently favoured military interventions only under a UN umbrella. Though that position is unlikely to change quickly, India may join future coalitions of the willing when its vital national interests are threatened and need to be defended.
As a key player in Asia and a large democracy with which India has commonality of interests, the US is emerging as India's leading strategic partner. Though there is a broad national consensus on the contours of the emerging relationship with the US, particularly enhanced defence cooperation and civil nuclear energy cooperation, some of the opposition parties are not convinced that the government has adopted the right approach. India's communist parties, which were supporting the government till the 2009 elections to Parliament, are steadfastly opposed to deeper relations with the US. Their position is guided by apprehensions that India will become a subaltern power and will be forced to compromise its strategic autonomy. The opposition of the Left Parties flows mainly from a pathological hatred of the US as an "imperial" power rather than from genuine national security concerns and they are completely outnumbered. The right wing Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), initiated the ongoing defence and security relationship with the US but is now ambivalent about supporting it.
India hedges its bets
As it faces complex strategic scenarios and is located in an increasingly unstable neighbourhood, it is in India's interest to encourage a cooperative model of regional security and to work with all friendly countries towards that end. At the same time, India finds it pragmatic to hedge its bets just in case "worst case" scenarios begin to unfold and threaten its economic development or territorial integrity. The Malabar series of naval exercises are part of an initiative to engage with the littoral navies to enhance maritime cooperation for security and stability in the Indian Ocean region. The increasing emphasis on maritime cooperation is part of India's continuing efforts to discharge its growing obligations and responsibilities as a regional power. There is a clear attempt on India's part to cooperate with all the major Asian powers to maintain peace and stability in the southern Asian and northern Indian Ocean regions, but without unduly favouring any one of them.
HC: Won’t interfere with trial court summons to Army Vice Chief
New Delhi, July 16
The Delhi High Court today rejected the plea of Vice Chief of Army Staff SK Singh and two others for a stay on the trial court summons to them in a criminal defamation case filed by Lt Gen (retd) Tejinder Singh for levelling false allegations against him.
Justice PK Bhasin clarified that the trial court would consider their contention that they could not be proceeded against in the case without getting sanction from the competent authority as mandated under Section 197 of the CrPC.
On Lt Gen Tejinder’s complaint, the trial court had, on June 8, summoned retired Army Chief Gen VK Singh, Maj Gen SL Narshiman (Additional Director General of Public Information), Lt Gen BS Thakur (DGMI), and Lt Col Hitten Sawhney, besides SK Singh, to appear before it on July 20.
The defamation pertained to the March 5, 2012, press release levelling allegations against Lt Gen Tejinder Singh. According to Gen VK Singh, Lt Gen Tejinder offered him a bribe of Rs 14 crore for clearing a deal for 600 trucks. It was alleged that Lt Tejinder was also behind the illegal off-air interception of some important telephone calls pertaining to sensitive information. Lt Gen Tejinder Singh has denied both the charges.
Justice Bhasin passed the order after both the parties agreed that the issue of sanction could be raised before the trial court.
The magistrate could decide the question of sanction in accordance with law without being influenced by the HC order, but only upon they had appeared before him, it was clarified.
Army truck kills scooterist in Cuffe Parade, driver held
A scooterist was killed after he was run over by an Army truck near the Colaba Defence Station, next to the Backbay Depot in Cuffe Parade on Monday.
According to the police, Ashok Yelappa (38) — a local cable operator — was a resident of Ambedkar Nagar. He was on his way back home after dropping his daughter at school when the accident took place.
The truck driver, Dinesh Kumar, was later arrested and charged under Sections 279 (rash and negligent driving) and 304 A (causing death by negligence) of the Indian Penal Code. He will be produced in court on Tuesday.
According to the Cuffe Parade police, Yelappa was on his Honda Activa scooter when the truck rammed into him at 1.25 pm. “He was behind a BEST bus, which came to a halt on the road. Yelappa also applied the brakes, but the truck rammed into his scooter from behind,” said an officer, who did not wish to be named.
Yelappa came under the left tyre of the truck and suffered injuries to his head, spine and back. He was rushed to hospital by eyewitnesses, including some of the Army personnel on the truck. However, he was declared dead on arrival.
Masak Shaikh (21), a local resident, said: “It happened in a flash. I knew him as he worked as a local cable operator and was a very jovial person.”
The driver of the BEST bus said he had applied the brakes as there was another vehicle in front. “I turned towards the road leading to Nariman Point from Cuffe Parade and applied the brakes as there was another vehicle in front. I heard a loud thud and got down assuming someone had rammed into the bus. I saw a two-wheeler under the left tyre of the truck and saw a man lying in a pool of blood,” said Pravin Shinde, the driver.
The police have recorded the statements of Shinde and several persons who witnessed the accident, said an officer.
Do not train Sri Lankans: Jayalalithaa, Karunanidhi
Chennai, July 16 — Chief Minister J. Jayalalithaa and former chief minister M. Karunanidhi Monday asked the central government to send back all Sri Lankan military personnel training in India and accused the central government of not respecting Tamil sentiments.
In a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Jayalalithaa said the central government was showing "utter disrespect" to the sentiments of the Tamils by training Sri Lankan defence personnel and allowing them to visit Tamil Nadu.
"Imparting training to Sri Lankan armed forces in defence training institutions in India and allowing them to visit Tamil Nadu reveals the utter disrespect shown to the sentiments of the people of Tamil Nadu."
She urged Manmohan Singh to instruct the defence ministry to desist from giving any training to Sri Lankan armed forces anywhere in India and send them back immediately.
Two Sri Lankan officers along with 25 others from various countries are in Coonoor in Nilgiris district in Tamil Nadu. They will be visiting the Defence Service Staff College at Wellington, 520 km from here.
The group is undergoing training at the National Defence Academy in New Delhi.
Jayalalithaa said: "The people of Tamil Nadu are frustrated and outraged by this callous and adamant attitude of the government in persistently giving training to personnel belonging to the Sri Lankan armed forces in India."
Jayalalithaa recalled the resolution passed by the Tamil Nadu assembly in June last year, urging India to take up with the UN the issue of declaring those guilty of war crimes in Sri Lanka as "war criminals"
The resolution had also sought an economic embargo on Sri Lanka till all Tamils living in refugee camps were resettled and given equal rights on par with the Sinhalese citizens.
Karunanidhi said that at a time when the Sri Lankan Army was "attacking Eelam Tamils", training them in India was unacceptable.
He asked the central government to take steps to send them back.
"Further, the centre should not indulge in such activities and hurt Tamil hearts," he said.
Key Indian Army, IAF commanders meet; talk synergy
New Delhi : In the first such effort, the commanders of the Indian Army's and the IAF's swordarms that defend most of the western frontiers with Pakistan met one-on-one here Monday to discuss better coordination between their forces and beefing up security in the region.
The Indian Army's Chandimandir-based Western Commander, Lt. Gen. Sanjeev Chachra, called on the Indian Air Force's Subroto Park-based Western Commander, Air Marshal Arup Raha, to discuss their respective formations' operational readiness and means to achieve jointness, a defence ministry official here said.
"This is first such meeting between the commanders of the two spearhead formation of the Indian Army and the Indian Air Force since they assumed their respective appointments recently," the official said.
"The two commanders had several rounds of discussions with the command staff on numerous operational aspects," he said.
The two officers had taken over their appointments last month.
The Western Army Command and the Western Air Command work closely on a day-to-day basis on a wide spectrum of operational issues.
A deep operational synergy exists within the two formations to ensure real-time sharing of information and optimum utilisation of resources be it air defence networks and assets, sharing of intelligence inputs or fine-tuning operational plans.
The Western Air Command is also similarly engaged with the Udhampur-based Northern Army Command and the recently-formed Jaipur-based South Western Army Command.
The Western Air Command has a unique role in support of the three operational army commands. The challenging task entrusted upon the Western Air Command is supported by the advance headquarters of the Western Air Command, headed by Air Vice Marshal P.N. Kaushik and is co-located with the Western Army Command in Chandimandir.
An army ground liaison section located at the Western Air Command headquarters in Subroto Park, headed by a colonel, provides a reciprocal support for the army formations.
This unique section has played a significant role during operations in the past. The section is active throughout the year and supports operations of three army commands associated with the Western Air Command.
Lt. Gen. Chachra and Air Marshal Raha termed their meeting as "a continuation of the operational jointness between the two formations".
"Such visits are aimed at appreciating mutual concerns, constraints, dynamics and synergy in the operations amidst an ever changing security scenario," the defence ministry official added.
Army flags off 'Carvan-e-Hind' students tour
Jammu: Army on Monday flagged off 'Carvan-e-Hind,' a nine day long educational-cum-motivational tour for 22 students, from Noushera forward belt of Rajouri district in Jammu and Kashmir.
Part of the ongoing 'Operation Sadbhavana,' 22 students hailing from the remote border areas of Noushera would be part of the tour starting from today to 24 July, PRO Defence, Col RK Palta, said.
Being conducted by the Noushera Brigade, under the aegis of the Ace of Spades Division, the students will get the privilege of interacting with the President of India and the Chief of the Army Staff at New Delhi, he said.
They would be presented with the opportunity to visit various historical sites and places of interest at Bhopal and Chennai, he said.
The children would also get the chance to interact with the Governor of Tamil Nadu in Chennai.
The flagging off function was attended by several senior army officers and civilian dignitaries.
The students were upbeat and enthusiastic about the forthcoming tour as this is the first time in their lives they would be venturing beyond the boundaries of Rajouri.
Their parents expressed gratitude towards the Indian Army for this opportunity to their children to see other parts of the country.