Friday, 16 August 2019

India could use nukes first if circumstances demand: Rajnath Singh

Rajnath Singh, laying a wreathe at Pokhran in memory of Atal Behari Vajpayee, shortly before making his announcement about NFU 

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 17th Aug 19

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday became the latest and highest level official to place a question mark over India’s “ nuclear no first use” (NNFU) pledge, when he said India may not feel indefinitely or unquestionably bound to NNFU.” 

“Until now, our nuclear policy has been based on ‘no first use’, but what happens in the future will depend on the circumstances,” Singh said while speaking to the media in the symbolic location of Pokhran.

Making it clear that this was not just a casual comment, Singh simultaneously tweeted: “Pokhran is the area which witnessed Atal [Behari Vajpayee] Ji’s firm resolve to make India a nuclear power and yet remain firmly committed to the doctrine of ‘no first use’. India has strictly adhered to this doctrine. What happens in future depends on the circumstances.”

Over the past decade, New Delhi’s stated nuclear doctrine that India would not be the first to use nuclear weapons has been incrementally diluted through ambiguous official statements. These include one in 2010 from a serving national security advisor (NSA), Shivshankar Menon; and another in 2016 from a serving defence minister, Manohar Parrikar, which the defence ministry later qualified as his “personal views”.

In nuclear warfare theory, an NFFU pledge engenders nuclear stability, especially in a crisis, by assuring nuclear powers that they would not be subjected to a pre-emptive nuclear strike and are, therefore, under no pressure to fire their nukes. By this logic, nuclear theorists argue that New Delhi’s dilution of its NFFU pledge creates “use it or lose it” incentives in Pakistan to pre-emptively fire its nukes.

Chris Clary of State University of New York, an expert on South Asia security argues that India’s dilution of NFFU increases the risk of Pakistani nuclear use. 

“Given India's investments in precision-strike conventional and nuclear missiles and ballistic missile defence, along with its impressive advances in surveillance and reconnaissance platforms, India's adversaries have strong reasons to doubt whether in a crisis, India retains any commitment not to use nuclear weapons first. It is hard enough anyway to convince enemies of an NFU doctrine, but routine questioning of that doctrine by senior officials is one recipe for disbelief,” says Clary. 

While Vajpayee firmly stuck by NNFU, the Narendra Modi-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been more ambiguous. Leading into the 2014 elections, Modi’s manifesto promised to “revise and update [India’s nuclear doctrine] to make it relevant to the challenges of current times.” Many interpreted this as a pledge to dilute NNFU.

Modi quickly denied such an intention, stating in an interview in April 2014: “NFU was a great initiative of Atal Behari Vajpayee. There is no compromise on that. We are very clear. NFU is a reflection of our cultural inheritance.”

As recently as November 2018, while operationalizing India’s nuclear missile submarine, INS Arihant, Modi again committed to NNFU: “[India] remains committed to the doctrine of Credible Minimum Deterrence and No First Use, as enshrined in the decision taken… on January 4, 2003.”

But ambiguity about India’s commitment to NFFU long pre-dates Modi. In 2010, Shivshankar Menon, addressing the National Defence College as the serving NSA, described India’s nuclear doctrine as emphasizing “minimal deterrence, no first use against non-nuclear weapon states and its direct linkage to nuclear disarmament.”

Since Menon confined the NFFU pledge to “non-nuclear weapon states”, analysts concluded India was retaining a first-use option against nuclear adversaries, especially Pakistan and China.

Intriguingly, this year, the Ministry of External Affairs, changed the text of Menon’s 2010 speech on its website, citing India’s emphasis on “minimal deterrence, no first use and non use against non-nuclear weapon states and its direct linkage to nuclear disarmament.”

Close watchers of India’s nuclear policy, such as Vipin Narang of Massachusetts Institute of Technology, were quick to pick up on this change. Narang tweeted: “Whoa. MEA edited this Shivshankar Menon speech text online! As of January 2019 it read: ‘no first use against non nuclear weapons states’ which was a dilution [of NFFU]. Now it reads: ‘emphasis on minimal deterrence, no first use and non use against non-nuclear weapon states’ which is not [a dilution]!”

Ankit Panda of the Federation of American Scientists says the BJP’s ambiguity on NFFU is consistent with Modi’s strategy. “Given Modi's penchant for surprise in the national security space, as seen with the Balakot strikes, ASAT test, and Article 370 abrogation, a renewed nuclear posture—if not doctrine—designed to suit India's present circumstances is not at all unthinkable,” says Panda

Shashank Joshi, Defence Editor of Economist, says: “The benign interpretation is that New Delhi is signalling to countries like China that if they alter their nuclear doctrines, India may follow suit. The less charitable and more destabilising interpretation is that India is trying to eat its cake and have it too: signalling commitment to NFU, but sowing doubt as to whether India would adhere to it in a crisis.”

Narang takes note of the statement made by the former chief of India’s Strategic Forces Command, Lieutenant General BS Nagal, who publicly declared that, notwithstanding NFFU, India’s leaders could not stand by and wait for an adversary to nuke the country.

Says Narang: “There has long been [Indian] discomfort with an absolute NFU policy. If evidence of imminent Pakistani nuclear use were clear, what Indian PM could sit back and allow Indian forces or citizens to be hit and not try to pre-empt? Singh is just saying what many, especially China and Pakistan, already believe.”

Thursday, 15 August 2019

Modi announces post of tri-service military chief, but questions remain

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 15th Aug 19

In 1999, the Kargil Review Committee (KRC) recommended creating a Chief of Defence (CDS) – a supreme military commander of the army, navy and air force; who would also serve as the government’s single point of military advice. For the two decades since, successive governments shrank from appointing a CDS, citing the need for a political consensus. 

In 2001, a Group of Ministers (GoM) endorsed the KRC recommendations, but the only joint command structure that emerged was a relatively toothless Integrated Defence Staff (IDS), headed by a three-star rank officer, junior to the three service chiefs. Consequently, the army, navy and air force continue to function without essential coordination.

On Thursday, in his Independence Day address, Prime Minister Narendra Modi apparently abandoned the need for political consensus and announced the government was going ahead with appointing a CDS.

“To further sharpen coordination between the services, I want to announce a major decision from the Red Fort. India will have a Chief of Defence Staff – a CDS. This is going to make the forces even more effective,” said Modi.

However, it remains unclear what kind of CDS the PM will implement. One possibility is what the GoM recommended: a five-star general who would be boss of the four-star chiefs of the army, navy and air force and would direct all their functions including operations, training and long-range planning. 

The other kind of CDS is what the Naresh Chandra Task Force recommended in 2012 – a less powerful, four-star officer termed the Permanent Chairman of the Chiefs of Staff Committee (PCCSC), who would not directly command the three services, but would be the “first amongst equals”. The PCCSC would coordinate between the three services, enabling efficiency through sharing resources such as training facilities and obtaining economy of scale by carrying out joint procurement of weapons and equipment.

Given Modi’s emphasis on “sharpen[ing] coordination” rather than “joint command”, analysts are guessing that a four-star PCCSC is likely, with the title of CDS, if not the functions and five-star rank.

The appointment of a PCCSC would bring limited benefits, since the army, navy and air force would continue operating individually in key functions such as combat operations and planning. 

Nor would a PCCSC enable the next layer of defence reform, which is the creation of joint theatre commands, in which a theatre chief (who could be from any of the three services) would have under his command all the army, navy and air force troops necessary for carrying out his operational tasks. 

Currently, only one such tri-service command exists – the Andaman & Nicobar Command (ANC), which functions under the IDS. Meanwhile, each of the three services has three-to-seven single service commands with overlapping jurisdictions.

Resistance to creating a five-star CDS post has stemmed from three directions. Politicians have had an unstated aversion to the concentration of all military power in a single person’s hands. Bureaucrats have opposed a CDS since the four-star service chiefs already have the same status as the cabinet secretary and a five-star CDS would presumably outrank the senior-most bureaucrat. Finally, there has been apprehension amongst smaller services, notably the air force, that an army CDS might undermine their positions.

The senior defence community, whose views are conveyed by veterans, approves of the CDS announcement. Lieutenant General Satish Dua (Retired), a former IDS chief, says “The appointment of CDS will be a game-changer, a force multiplier, who will bring synergy and coordination to the three services.”

“A good decision, but making it work is obviously a greater challenge,” says Lieutenant General Ata Hasnain, former corps commander in Srinagar. 

It is unclear who will be the first CDS, or when the appointment will be formally notified and implemented. If the CDS is selected from the serving chiefs, Air Chief Marshal BS Dhanoa, the air force chief, is currently the senior-most. Dhanoa retires on September 30 and, from October 1, army chief General Bipin Rawat will be senior-most.

However, the CDS could well be a more junior officer, deep-selected from the pool of serving generals. The Modi government has twice overturned the existing command hierarchy in choosing its service chiefs. In appointing Rawat as army chief in 2017, the government superseded two generals senior to him. The current navy chief, Admiral Karambir Singh, too was chosen in preference to another, more senior, admiral.

Anit Mukherjee of the Rajaratnam School of International Studies, an authority on higher defence management in India, sees little benefit in appointing a CDS if he is to be merely an upgraded IDS chief, without the army, navy and air force handing over responsibility for substantive functions.

“What are the precise departments, if any, which are to hived off from the three services? Who will control combat operations, and perspective planning? Lack of clarity on this would create tensions between the CDS and the three service chiefs down the line,” says Mukherjee.

Saturday, 10 August 2019

Part 1: Public defence shipyards bag 85-95% of warship orders without tendering

Ficci asks Rajnath Singh for level playing field for private shipyards (Photo: Mazagon Docks' modular infrastructure, built at public expense)

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 5th Aug 19

The Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) has written a strongly-worded note to Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, asking the ministry of defence (MoD) to end the practice of “nominating” defence public sector undertaking (DPSU) shipyards to build warships for the navy and coast guard.

“Nomination” involves placing orders for warships on chosen public sector shipyards, without competitive tendering. Ficci’s note asks for a level playing field for private shipyards by permitting them to participate in all warship tenders. 

Private defence shipyards are in dire straits, with two of them – Bharati and ABG Shipyards – facing foreclosure; and sparse order books for the others, despite L&T’s Rs 3,500 crore construction of a Greenfield shipyard at Katupalli, Tamil Nadu, and Reliance Naval and Engineering’s Rs 2,000 crore purchase of Pipavav Shipyard.

Ficci has presented figures to highlight that, over the last two decades, the four DPSU shipyards – Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL), Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE), Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL) and Hindustan Shipyard Ltd, Visakhapatnam (HSL) – along with Kerala state’s Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL), garnered all the high-value orders through “nomination”.

Between 2000-2010, PSU yards were “nominated” for over 95 per cent by value of all warship orders, amounting to Rs 76,794 crore. Only 4.9 per cent of orders were competitively tendered. Of those, PSU yards won 1.9 per cent (worth Rs 1,500 crore) while private yards won the remaining three per cent, worth Rs 2,446 crore.

The MoD counters that most warship orders are competitively tendered. It says PSU yards were “nominated” to build only 56 ships, while the private sector was allowed to participate in the tendering for 90 ships – 62 per cent of the total numbers.

While that is so, the 38 per cent of orders that were “nominated” to PSU yards included all the high-value warships, adding up to 95 per cent of the monetary value. The 62 per cent where the private sector competed involved small, low-value auxiliary vessels.

Ficci further contends that, with PSU yards having pocketed 95 per cent of orders through “nomination”, they possessed ample resources to cross-subsidise their bids in the remaining orders that were competitively tendered. Consequently, private shipyards had to resort to “gross underbidding just to remain in business,” says Ficci.

In November 2010, then defence minister AK Antony had pledged: “From January 2011onwards, the Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) will not give any nominations to the defence shipyards for naval projects and they will have to compete with the private shipyards for the tenders.”

Yet, little changed in practice. Between 2011-19, PSU shipyards were “nominated” for 85 per cent by value of shipbuilding contracts, constituting Rs 146,261 crore. The private sector participated in just 15 per cent of the tenders, worth Rs 25,758 crore.

With huge contracts already in hand, says Ficci, “The PSUs began resorting to rampant cross subsidization to win 10.4 per cent programmes, leaving a meagre 4.6 per cent for the private sector.”

Once again, absolute figures are misleading. Between 2011-19, contracts to build 73 warships were awarded after competitive bidding, while 69 warships were “nominated” to public sector yards. However, the latter included all the lucrative warship contracts, leaving private shipyards to compete only in orders for low-value, auxiliary vessels.

Ficci has also raised another point with operational implications: The large volume of “nominated” orders placed on PSU shipyards has created such a huge order backlog that the navy and coast guard will have to wait many years for delivery of warships. 

Last week Business Standard reported (July 30, Garden Reach builds 100th warship; order book full for next 20 years) that GRSE would take 20 years to discharge its order book of Rs 27,500 crore, at its current annual turnover of Rs 1,386 crore.

According to MoD figures, the combined value of production in 2017-18 of MDL, GRSE, GSL and HSL added up to just Rs 7,600 crore. Yet they were “nominated” during the last two decades for warship orders worth Rs 223,055 crore.

“With this rate of execution, gross delays are inevitable in liquidation of existing order book thus affecting warship induction plans and force readiness levels of the Indian Navy,” said Ficci.

Citing a report that the Prime Minister’s Office has mandated that all future warship contracts will be competitively bid, Ficci has requested that no new orders should be “nominated” to PSU shipyards. Further, on-going “nominated” procurements in which contracts have not yet been awarded must be re-categorized and re-bid, with private shipyards participating. 

As a key enabler for private shipbuilding, Ficci has requested that the Strategic Partnership (SP) procurement model be fast-tracked for Project 75-I, which involves constructing six conventional submarines for the navy. That would require the MoD to choose an Indian private shipyard to build the six submarines in India in technology partnership with a global “original equipment manufacturer” (OEM). 

Ficci has cautioned against allowing DPSU yards into SP projects, which the MoD is considering. Instead the MoD is urged to stick with the “original intent of SP model being reserved for participation by the private sector only.” 

The original SP concept that the Dhirendra Singh Committee (2015) and VK Aatrey Task Force (2016) envisioned has the primary objective of developing private sector capabilities in defence manufacturing. However, the SP policy that the MoD eventually drew up for the Defence Procurement Procedure of 2016 (DPP-2016), left the door open for DPSUs to compete in SP category procurements.

Ficci argues that private shipbuilders cannot compete on level terms with PSU yards. The latter have benefited from hundreds of crores of government funds spent on their modernisation and on technology transferred over earlier “nominated” contracts.

In case [the Project 75-I procurement on the SP model cannot be restricted to the private sector], the competing DPSU bids must be loaded for the cross-subsidy arbitrage in the form of free access to government funded assets and past repeated ToTs (transfer of technology),” says Ficci.

(Part 2: Private shipyards: L&T shows way to on-time delivery)

Part 2: L&T shows private shipbuilders can deliver on time: an analysis of previous Offshore Patrol Vessel contracts

ICGS Vikram, which L&T delivered on schedule in April 2018

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 7th Aug 19

When L&T delivered Indian Coast Guard Ship (ICGS) Vikram in April 2018, the first of seven offshore patrol vessels (OPVs) ordered by the Coast Guard, the event was remarkable for two reasons: First, the delivery was on schedule, pleasantly surprising the services that have long complained about lengthy time overruns by defence public sector undertaking (DPSU) shipyards.

Second, L&T’s Kattupalli shipyard took just 36 months to build and deliver that OPV, even though this was the first OPV it had ever built. 

In contrast, when Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL), the public sector’s premier OPV builder, got an order in April 1990 for four OPVs, it took twice as long to deliver the first. The delay in delivering those four OPVs ranged from two years to eight and a half years.

Over the next 25 years, GSL delayed delivery in six consecutive OPV orders. It was only in 2015-17 that GSL managed to deliver six Coast Guard OPVs on schedule.

L&T, however, is on course to deliver all seven Coast Guard OPVs ahead of time. Coast Guard officials, speaking off the record, pronounced the build quality as “excellent”.

Below: (corrected heading): OPVs built by PRIVATE SECTOR

The confidence generated from this demonstrated capability has led the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) to petition Defence Minister Rajnath Singh to allow private sector shipyards, including L&T and Reliance Naval and Engineering (RNaval), to compete on equal terms with defence public sector undertaking (DPSU) shipyards for warship orders.

Ficci’s petition points out that, over the last two decades, the four DPSU shipyards – Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL), Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers (GRSE), Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL) and Hindustan Shipyard Ltd, Visakhapatnam (HSL) – along with Kerala state’s Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL), were handed 85-95 per cent of warship building orders (by value) through “nomination” – which means without competitive tendering.

During this period, the only orders the defence ministry placed on private sector shipyards were for low-value auxiliary vessels that did not require advanced engineering skills.

This bias continues, despite L&T’s success with the Coast Guard OPV order, and in building sophisticated hulls and systems for India’s nuclear submarine programme. Ignoring the claims of private shipyards, the defence ministry “nominated” GSL to build two Krivak III frigates with technology from Russia. 

Defence ministry officials argue that L&T has never built a frigate earlier. Neither has GSL.

Ficci has pointed out that the defence ministry’s practice of “nominating” PSU yards for warship orders has starved private shipbuilders, leading to the closure of two private shipyards – ABG and Bharati Shipyards. The remaining two – L&T and RNaval’s Pipavav Shipyard – are grappling with mounting losses.

The defence ministry argues that private shipyards too have failed to deliver. They point to on-going difficulties with RNaval, which is over four years late in delivering an order for five OPVs for the navy.

The navy, as well as private industry bodies, feel a line must be drawn under failures of previous years and a healthy competition encouraged between PSU shipyards and those in the private sector.

Ficci has requested a “level playing field” competition in building the next generation of warships over the coming years: the eponymous “next-generation OPVs”, next-generation missile boats”, “next-generation frigates” and “next-generation destroyers”. All these are currently being designed by the navy’s design directorate.

Ficci has further requested that on-going warship procurements in which PSU yards have been “nominated”, but actual contracts not yet been awarded; must be re-categorized and re-bid, with private shipyards participating.

Wednesday, 7 August 2019

India’s dispute with Pakistan over Jammu & Kashmir has a loser – New Delhi’s cherished secularism


By Ajai Shukla
South China Morning Post
5thAug 19

On Monday, the Indian government unilaterally reshaped its special constitutional relationship with its northernmost province of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), under which that princely state had joined the Indian union. 

In October 1947, with Pakistan-sponsored Pashtun militias closing in on the summer capital of Srinagar, the Hindu king of the Muslim-majority kingdom signed an Instrument of Accession, giving New Delhi full control over J&K’s defence, foreign affairs and communications, while allowing Srinagar control over all other matters, including framing its own constitution. This special relationship with J&K was enshrined in Article 370 of the Indian constitution.

This has long irked Hindu nationalists, who for decades railed against “special privileges” being accorded to India’s only Muslim-majority state and, especially, against Article 370. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) manifesto going into general elections earlier this year, explicitly promised “the abrogation of Article 370”. Last May, with an increasingly right-leaning Indian electorate voting Modi back to power with an increased majority in Parliament, the fate of Article 370 was sealed.

Even so, there is surprise in many quarters at how emphatically the government has acted. Last year, the BJP pulled out of the coalition government in Kashmir. That left its partner, Mehbooba Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP), in a minority – paving the way for her dismissal and the imposition of central rule. 

With New Delhi ruling the state through a governor in Srinagar, tens of thousands of central police forces were pumped into Kashmir over the last fortnight, beefing up the estimated 400,000 or so troops already based there. Last week, the Amarnath Yatra – a hallowed annual pilgrimage by Hindu devotees from all over India to a Himalayan shrine in Kashmir – was abruptly called off and tens of thousands of pilgrims and tourists were bundled out of Kashmir. 

On Sunday, curfew was imposed all across the Kashmir Valley, and the internet was cut off. Kashmiri politicians, including “pro-India” politicians like Mufti, were put under arrest, lumping all Kashmiris – loyalists, nationalists and secessionists – together, damaging invaluable relationships beyond repair. Amid wild rumourmongering all through that day, panicked Kashmiris stocked up for a lengthy siege.

On Monday morning, their worst fears unfolded. Home affairs minister Amit Shah announced in Parliament that the BJP-supported President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, had signed an order making J&K subject to the Constitution of India, effectively quashing Article 370. 

Such an abrogation, according to the article’s own provisions, demands consultation with the state assembly. But with that assembly suspended and J&K under central rule, the presidential order stated that consultation with the New Delhi-appointed state governor would suffice. Ironically, the governor had publicly promised just days ago that no constitutional changes were on the cards.

In an even more radical move, Shah dealt with the J&K problem by terminating the existence of the entity, bifurcating the state into two territories that are part of the Indian union. 

The vast Ladakh region, sparsely inhabited by Buddhists and Shia Muslims, which had remained largely peaceful through three decades of insurgency in Kashmir, would henceforth be centrally administered from New Delhi. The second union territory would comprise of the Jammu region and of Kashmir, and would have an elected assembly. There is no telling, though, when that assembly would be constituted; J&K state elections have been pending since the Mufti government fell in June 2018, but have been postponed for “security reasons”. 

It is likely that New Delhi will continue to put off elections for the foreseeable future, choosing instead to deal with the restive Kashmir region indefinitely without the moderating influence (read, nuisance) of an elected state assembly. That could change once the BJP orchestrates the delimitation of electoral constituencies to allocate a larger number of seats to Hindu-majority areas.

Kashmiri outrage at these unilateral changes is inevitable. Former J&K chief minister Omar Abdullah termed the scrapping of Article 370 a “total betrayal of trust” that amounted to “aggression”. Mufti denounced this as “the darkest day in Indian democracy”. However, the fulminations of mainstream politicians are now far less important than the reaction of the Kashmiri street. 

Over the preceding decade, the secessionist leadership has passed from Pakistan-controlled individuals like the octogenarian Syed Yusuf Shah Geelani into the hands of disparate, hot-blooded young chiefs, including some with ties to al-Qaeda and Islamic State. If street protests erupt and gain traction, Kashmir could be in for another bloody summer. For that reason, security forces have been ordered to make sure the streets remain empty.

India’s security managers are comfortable with battling armed Kashmiri militants and have, over the decades, fine-tuned an operational and intelligence grid that takes out militants as fast as Kashmiri youths can be persuaded to pick up the gun, or Pakistan can send them across the Line of Control. 

However, tackling stone-pelting mobs of unarmed youngsters is less to the liking of troops and policemen in Kashmir. In an international community where there is little tolerance for Islamist jihadis, gunning down armed fighters carries little opprobrium. However, the image-conscious Indian military realises the potential for criticism in dealing with a Kashmiri intifada.

New Delhi’s move will inevitably face legal, constitutional and political challenges; not just from Kashmiri groups but also from civil society groups in India. Much will depend upon whether the courts determine that changing the constitutional nature of New Delhi’s relationship with Kashmir changes the basic structure of the Indian constitution. An opposition in disarray is unlikely to mount a serious political challenge, especially with several parties flirting with Hindu politics themselves.

So far, no country except Pakistan has criticised India. Islamabad has threatened it “will exercise all possible options to counter [India’s] illegal steps”. However, Islamabad long ago took its own illegal steps in the part of Kashmir that it controls, designating Gilgit-Baltistan (which it called the Northern Areas) a federally administered area. 

Pakistan has long sought to internationalise the Kashmir issue, but there will be introspection in Islamabad about whether its latest ploy – in which Prime Minister Imran Khan got President Donald Trump to offer to mediate the dispute – caused New Delhi to move quicker on eliminating Kashmir’s special status.

Indians have always held up Kashmir’s accession as a repudiation of the two-nation theory, based on which Pakistan was carved out of India’s Muslim-majority areas. The two-nation theory viewed Hindus and Muslims as two distinct nations, holding that a Muslim minority could never be safe in a Hindu-majority India. 

India, however, holds that religion cannot be an organising principle, and the secure existence of Muslim-majority J&K in India validates the country’s cherished secularism. After bulldozing down the special protections guaranteed to J&K, New Delhi will find that argument a little harder to make.

China, Muslim countries silent, Pakistan alone protests Kashmir move

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 5th July 19

The government’s abrogation of the provisions of Article 370 and the bifurcation of Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) into two union territories – Ladakh and J&K – has evoked little response from governments across the world. 

Pakistan has been the only country to condemn New Delhi’s move. Declaring that “Indian Occupied Jammu and Kashmir is an internationally recognized disputed territory”, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) in Islamabad stated: “As the party to this international dispute, Pakistan will exercise all possible options to counter the illegal steps.”

While Pakistan has long sought to internationalise the Kashmir dispute, Islamabad will be introspecting about whether its apparently successful ploy – in which Prime Minister Imran Khan got President Donald Trump to offer his services in mediating the Kashmir dispute – actually caused New Delhi to move quicker in abrogating Kashmir’s special status.

Pakistani analysts are demanding to know whether Khan and Trump discussed New Delhi’s plans for J&K during their meeting in Washington on July 22, and whether the Pakistan Army was aware of the impending announcement.

“Question is what was DGISI (director general of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence) doing that he couldn’t gather the intel[ligence] regarding what India had planned in Kashmir? Why did it come as a surprise?” asked Ayesha Siddiqa, the acclaimed author of Pakistan Inc., a book on the Pakistan Army’s business dealings.

Islamabad’s criticism of New Delhi’s bifurcation of J&K is weakened by its own restructuring in 1970 of Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (POK), from which it carved out a federally administered chunk of territory that it designated the “Northern Areas”. New Delhi is now mirroring that Pakistani move, by carving out Ladakh from J&K and designating it a union territory that will be directly administered from New Delhi.

In 2009, President Asif Zardari renamed the Northern Areas as Gilgit-Baltistan and granted the territory a degree of autonomy. However, local activists protest vocally that power continues to rest with the centrally-appointed governor, not the elected assembly.

There was silence too from the Organistation of Islamic Countries (OIC), which tend to be supportive of Pakistan. On August 4, the OIC had stated it was “deeply concerned about the deteriorating situation in the Indian occupied Jammu & Kashmir, including reports of deployment of additional paramilitary forces and use of banned cluster munition by Indian forces to target civilians.” However, the OIC has not reacted to the actual scrapping of Article 370. 

Beijing has remained silent, even though New Delhi has changed the status of Ladakh. China claims large parts of Ladakh, such as the Aksai Chin plateau.

In 1963, Pakistan ceded to China a 6,000 square kilometre chunk of J&K, called the Shaksgam Valley. In countering New Delhi’s protests at the occupation of its claimed territory, China states that its control of Shaksgam is contingent on the final resolution of the J&K dispute. However, Shaksgam will now fall within the union territory of Ladakh, not in J&K.

In contrast to the silence from the international powers, the Indian notification on J&K has been reported widely in the world media, including amongst the lead stories in BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera. 

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Garden Reach Shipyard builds its 100th warship; It's order book is full for the next 20 years

At current turnover, GRSE's order book is full for the next 20 years

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 30th July 19

India’s second-biggest warship building yard, the public sector Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers Ltd (GRSE), has completed delivery of its 100thwarship – the first Indian shipyard to achieve this feat.

In Kolkata, on Monday, the navy commissioned the vessel, an 830-tonne Landing Craft Utility (LCU Mark-IV) meant for transporting tanks, troop carriers, soldiers and equipment from large amphibious assault vessels to assault enemy shorelines.

GRSE’s lead will assuredly continue. Underlining the monopoly that the defence ministry’s four shipyards enjoy, GRSE says it has orders in hand for 22 more warships worth over Rs 27,500 crore. At the current turnover level of Rs 1,386 crore for 2018-19, GRSE’s order book is full for the next 20 years.

GRSE’s orders include the construction of three Project 17-A frigates, one remaining (out of four ordered) Project 28 anti-submarine corvette, eight anti-submarine warfare shallow water craft (ASWC), four large survey vessels, two remaining LCUs and four fast patrol vessels.

The three Project 17-A frigates were awarded to GRSE on “nomination”, which means without competitive bidding. They will be built using modular construction techniques and advanced software such as Aveva Marine and NAPA. The modular construction facilities, which cost over Rs 600 crore, were built at government cost.

Similarly, Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai (MDL) has been “nominated” for orders to construct four Project 17-A frigates, four Project 15-B destroyers and six Scorpene submarines (of which one has been delivered).

In contrast, the private sector Larsen & Toubro (L&T) shipyard at Kathupalli does not have a single naval warship order. The other private sector defence shipyard, Reliance Naval’s (RNAVAL’s) Pipavav facility, has a relatively small order for naval offshore patrol vessels.

GRSE’s association with the Indian Navy goes back 59 years, when it built the first “seaward defence boat” for the navy. Since then, GRSE has built 780 platforms, including a 24,600 tonne fleet tanker. Of these, 67 are warships built for the navy and another 33 warships built for the Coast Guard and the government of Mauritius.

Meanwhile MDL, since it was nationalised in 1960, has built 795 vessels, including 25 warships and three submarines. MDL has built most of the navy’s frigates and destroyers – so-called “capital warships” that are larger, costlier and more complex to build.

The two remaining defence public sector shipyards – Goa Shipyard Ltd (GSL) and Hindustan Shipyard Ltd (HSL) – also enjoy “nomination” orders from the defence ministry. GSL has been “nominated” to build two of the four Russian Krivak-III class frigates on order, along with eight ASWCs (while GRSE builds eight more).

Meanwhile Kerala state shipyard, Cochin Shipyard Ltd (CSL) was “nominated” to build the first indigenous aircraft carrier, INS Vikrant.

The private sector shipyards, which includes Reliance Naval’s Pipavav Shipyard and L&T, have been agitating for orders on competitive basis. Their future depends upon whether the defence ministry decides to allow them to compete with the public sector yards for the forthcoming Rs 50,000 crore order for six more submarines.