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.

Sunday, 28 July 2019

India gets first four Apache attack helicopters, another four next week

An Apache AH-64E in Indian Air Force livery

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 28th July 19

In a major capability boost for the Indian Air Force (IAF), The Boeing Company delivered four AH-64E Apache attack helicopters on Saturday, ahead of the contracted schedule, at the Hindan Air Force Station, outside Delhi. 

Boeing has announced that four more Apaches will arrive in the coming week. The eight will then move to the Pathankot Air Force Station for their formal induction by the IAF, in September. By next year, the IAF will operate a fleet of 22 Apaches.

In 2015, the IAF signed a $1.8 billion contract for 22 Apaches, including production, training and maintenance support. In 2017, another six Apaches were contracted for the army. Since last year, Indian pilots have been training in the US to fly and operate the Apache.

The IAF’s Apaches will replace its obsolescent Soviet-origin Mi-35 attack helicopters that have come to the end of their four-decade-long service lives, despite having been recently upgraded for night operations.

Each IAF Apache squadron will have ten attack helicopters. The IAF’s 22 Apaches will equip two squadrons, with two choppers in reserve to cover for accidents or combat casualties.

Additionally, the army intends to raise three Apache squadrons, one for each of the mechanised strike corps: Mathura-based 1 Corps, Ambala-based 2 Corps and Bhopal-based 21 Corps. In addition to the six Apaches already on order, the army is likely to place another order on Boeing for about thirty more.

Boeing has delivered more than 2,200 Apaches to 14 customers around the world. The helicopter has flown about a million mission hours in conflicts from the First Gulf War in 1991 to the on-going combat in Afghanistan. It is armed with advanced fire control radar, anti-tank missiles, rockets and a chain gun that sends 625 rounds per minute ripping into armoured vehicles. 

Over the years, the Apache has been incrementally upgraded. The version the IAF is getting – the AH-64E, with greater thrust and lift, joint digital operability, improved survivability and cognitive decision aids – is the one being flown by the US Army. 

In addition to the Apaches, the IAF and army will soon induct the Light Combat Helicopter (LCH), designed and manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL). The IAF has projected a requirement of 65 LCH, while the army has undertaken to buy another 114. The LCH, which is at an advanced stage of flight-testing, is specially designed for the extreme Himalayan altitudes that much of the army is deployed in.

The IAF’s Apache contract is in two parts: In the first category of Direct Commercial Sales (DCS), the IAF has negotiated directly with Boeing for the helicopter, less the engines and sensors, but including spares and services. In the second Foreign Military Sales (FMS) category, which includes the helicopter’s engines, fire control systems, radars, key avionics and weapons and missiles, the US Department of Defence (the Pentagon) has negotiated costs with vendors, usually benchmarked at the price the vendor last sold the equipment to the US military. In many FMS contracts, the foreign customer gets the equipment cheaper than the US military did, since production costs keep declining as the production line gets amortised.

The Apache contract is yet another feather in the cap for Boeing, which also bagged the contracts for supplying India the CH-47F Chinook helicopter, C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft and the P-8I Poseidon maritime reconnaissance aircraft.

To discharge its offset liabilities, Boeing has ramped up sourcing from India, which the company claims currently stands at $1 billion annually. It is procuring from over 160 companies in India, including a joint venture that manufactures fuselages for Apache helicopters.

Friday, 26 July 2019

Navy chief Admiral Karambir Singh argues powerfully for more funds to build warships, says will boost economy

"A very large proportion of every rupee spent on the Navy is ploughed back into the Indian economy.”

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 26th July 19

A day after Beijing released a defence White Paper emphasizing the role and profile of the Chinese Navy, India’s navy chief, Admiral Karambir Singh, argued on Thursday for more funds for building naval warships.

With the navy’s budget declining in real terms and the service facing internal defence ministry opposition to its proposal for building a second indigenous aircraft carrier, the navy chief rejected “a narrative, where budgetary allocation for naval shipbuilding is considered by some to be a drain on the economy.”

Addressing a Ficci seminar in New Delhi, Singh rode on the navy’s successful indigenisation programme to make a three-point argument that “Naval shipbuilding actually contributes handsomely to economic growth and nation building.”

Singh first cited a “plough-back effect… [in which] a very large proportion of every rupee spent on the Navy is ploughed back into the Indian economy.”

Illustrating that, Singh pointed out that, with “more than 60 per cent of the naval budget dedicated to capital expenditure, nearly 70 per cent of this has been spent on indigenous sourcing, amounting to nearly Rs 66,000 crores in the last five years.”

Singh said that, since 2014, 80 per cent of warship building approvals (on cost basis) have been reserved for Indian vendors. “Of the total 51 ships and submarines on order at various shipyards as on date, 49 are being constructed indigenously”, he stated.

The only Indian warships being built abroad are two Krivak III frigates in Yantar Shipyard in Russia.

Besides the capital budget, large parts of the revenue budget are also ploughed back into the national economy, said Singh, with Indian companies and workers providing logistics, spares and upgrades to indigenous warships over their three-decade service lives. “GRSE (Garden Reach Shipbuilders & Engineers, Kolkata), for instance, has nearly 2,100 firms registered to support on-going naval shipbuilding projects,” he said.

“Nearly 90 per cent of ship repair by value is undertaken by Indian vendors, mostly micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs),” he said. 

Singh’s second point was that warship building catalyses skills development.Each shipbuilding project involves considerable investment of manpower, with commensurate employment and skilling of workforce. As [warship] platforms become more complex, skill levels are also proportionately upgraded.”

Building a commercial ship of 30,000 tonnes employs 4,000 workers for one-to-two years, with one white-collar worker for every six blue-collar worker. Building a warship of 7,000 tonnes employs 4,800 workers for six-to-eight years. Of these, there is one white-collar worker for every 1.6 blue-collar workers, explained the navy’s design chief, Rear Admiral GK Harish, illustrating the navy chief’s point.

Further, for each worker employed in a warship yard, another 6.4 workers find jobs in ancillary industries that feed into the warship. “Project 17A [to build seven] frigates, for instance, is expected to employ a workforce of about 4,500 workers annually within the yard, but nearly 28,000 personnel per year as outsourced manpower from ancillary industries,” stated Singh. 
                    
Besides individual skilling, warship building spins off new shipyard capabilities, said the chief. For example, India’s largest dry-dock that Cochin Shipyard Ltd is building, primarily for aircraft carriers, would also let CSL service large commercial ships. 

Similarly, indigenous shipbuilding steel that the Defence R&D Organisation developed for INS Vikrant is now going into other vessels too. “Steel Authority of India has supplied nearly 50,000 tonnes of indigenous [warship] steel, which was hitherto being imported,” said the navy chief.

Thirdly, said Singh, “Naval shipbuilding projects contribute to strategic outcomes.” He cited warships built in India for Seychelles, Maldives and Sri Lanka. “There is immense potential to forge strategic partnerships and convert India into a strategic hub for defence shipbuilding exports and repairs to friendly foreign countries. 

However, cost-effective shipbuilding depends on achieving “a certain critical mass”, by galvanizing commercial shipbuilding for the mercantile marine and coastal shipping, he said.

Harish, however painted a gloomy picture of commercial shipbuilding. Between 2002-2007, India’s share of global shipbuilding orders rose six-fold from 0.2 to 1.2 per cent. That year an optimistic government set a target of garnering 7.5 per cent of global orders by 2017. However, after global recession of 2008, India’s share has fallen to 0.01 per cent of the global order book.

Wednesday, 24 July 2019

Beijing’s restructures defence strategy for a world of “great power rivalry”

Beijing takes a jab at India’s NSG push, saying the international non-proliferation regime is compromised and faces new challenges


By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 25th July 19

The Chinese government on Wednesday set out its defence strategy in a White Paper, superseding the previous strategy document of May 2015. Titled “China’s National Defense in the New Era”, the new strategy reflects “Xi Jinping Thought on Socialism with Chinese Characteristics for a New Era”, which China’s strongman president wrote into the constitution of the Communist Party of China at its 19th National Congress in 2017.

The new white paper details the reorganisation the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has undergone since 2015. Its earlier seven military area commands (at Shenyang, Beijing, Lanzhou, Jinan, Nanjing, Guangzhou and Chengdu) have been restructured into five tri-service theatre commands: Eastern Theater, Southern Theater, Western Theater, Northern Theater and Central Theater Commands.

Outlining a radical manpower reduction, the strategy notes: “300,000 personnel have been cut to keep the total active force at 2 million… Thus, the number of personnel in the [higher headquarters] has been cut by about 2 per cent, and that of non-combat units by almost 50 per cent. The PLA has significantly downsized the active force of the PLAA (Army), maintained that of the PLAAF (Air Force) at a steady number, moderately increased that of the PLAN (Navy) and PLARF (Rocket Force).”

“The PLAN has a very important standing in the overall configuration of China’s national security and development,” says the white paper, without directly ascribing it to the US challenge in the Western Pacific and Taiwan Strait. As the PLAN grows, its three fleets – the Donghai, Nanhai and Beihai Fleets – and the Marine Corps are shifting focus “from defense on the near seas to protection missions on the far seas.” 

A fundamental change in the 2019 strategy is China’s blunt description of a world of Great Power rivalry rather than cooperation. The 2015 white paper had said: “In the foreseeable future, a world war is unlikely, and the international situation is expected to remain generally peaceful… [though] the world still faces both immediate and potential threats of local wars.”

The 2019 white paper, however, anticipates confrontation with the US. “International strategic competition is on the rise. The US has adjusted its national security and defense strategies, and adopted unilateral policies. It has provoked and intensified competition among major countries, significantly increased its defense expenditure, pushed for additional capacity in nuclear, outer space, cyber and missile defense, and undermined global strategic stability”, the paper says.

In a jab at the US-India Nuclear Deal and India’s push for membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the white paper says: “The international non-proliferation regime is compromised by pragmatism and double standards, and hence faces new challenges.”

The new strategy is unusually frank in detailing the threat from separatism. “The Taiwan authorities, led by the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), stubbornly stick to “Taiwan independence”… borrowing the strength of foreign influence”, it states.

In a swipe at India’s support to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile, the paper says: “External separatist forces for ‘Tibet independence’ and the creation of ‘East Turkistan’ launch frequent actions, posing threats to China’s national security and social stability.”

For the first time, the PLA’s missions specifically include: “to oppose and contain ‘Taiwan independence’ [and] to crack down on proponents of separatist movements such as ‘Tibet independence’ and the creation of ‘East Turkistan’.” This could be an admission that the People’s Armed Police is unable to do this on its own.

Referring to the Wuhan summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Xi, the strategy paper notes: “To implement the important consensus reached by the leaders of China and India, the two militaries have exchanged high-level visits and pushed for a hotline for border defense cooperation and mechanisms for border management and border defense exchanges.”

The 2019 white paper frankly accepts that “The PLA still lags far behind the world’s leading militaries”. It states: “The US is engaging in technological and institutional innovation in pursuit of absolute military superiority. Russia is advancing its New Look military reform. Meanwhile, the UK, France, Germany, Japan and India are rebalancing and optimizing the structure of their military forces.”

On the PLA’s mission to build a high-tech military, which was also stated in its 2015 white paper, the new strategy documents notes: “Great progress has been made in the Revolution in Military Affairs (RMA) with Chinese characteristics. However, the PLA has yet to complete the task of mechanization, and is in urgent need of improving its informationization (the PLA’s term for digital integration). China’s military security is confronted by risks from technology surprise and growing technological generation gap.” 

Towards this end, the white paper reports that the PLA has restructured military education and research institutes, constituting 77 existing universities and colleges into 44. Meanwhile India’s military is struggling to set up its first National Defense University.

The strategy paper underplays China’s defence spending and over-estimates that of other countries: “As a percentage of GDP (gross domestic product), from 2012 to 2017, China’s average defense expenditure was about 1.3 per cent. Comparative figures were: the US about 3.5 per cent, Russia 4.4 per cent, India 2.5 per cent, the UK 2.0 per cent, France 2.3 per cent, Japan 1.0 per cent, and Germany 1.2 per cent.” 

In fact, India’s defence spending has been closer to 2 per cent of GDP, while China’s is about 1.8 per cent levels.

Tuesday, 23 July 2019

Engaging Kashmir’s alienated youth





The data on violence in Kashmir (graph at right, detailed figures further down) illustrates a missed opportunity for engaging Kashmiris between 2012-2015



By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 23rd July 19

Last week, I spent four days in Kashmir reading the mood amongst youngsters there. Engaging the Kashmiri youth is critical. With the decline of the Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) – largely the outmoded separatists of the Hurriyat Conference – a fragmented and highly localised youth leadership now guides confrontation with the security forces. 

Speaking to youths, especially in the roiling districts of South Kashmir, it becomes evident that the longstanding Kashmiri tradition of anger at mainstream India has turned into bubbling, visceral hatred. Almost every Kashmiri will argue that the flagrant anti-Muslim bias of the Narendra Modi government has validated the two-nation theory, leaving Muslims with no place in today’s India. Person after person recounted mistreatment and abuse by security forces, especially at random check-posts that treat every Kashmiri as a terrorist until proven innocent. There was the grinding misery of random inconvenience: traffic being halted for hours to clear the road for security force convoys, youngsters being detained at military camps or police stations, purely for the mistake of being a young, fighting-age male. So deep-flowing is the vein of Kashmiri bitterness that even the rising epidemic of drug addiction is blamed on an “Indian plot” to plant a cancer that destroys the flower of Kashmiri youth. Youngster after youngster swore to me that Kashmiris would fight to the finish in their struggle for azaadi.

However, long-time watchers of the Valley understand, and factor into their judgement, the Kashmiris’ deep-felt need to vent anger. The first half of any conversation is different from the second half, which is far more coloured with pragmatism, even wisdom. It became quickly evident that the Kashmiris realise they are at a fork in the road – one path paved with continued violence, uncertainty and security force operations; the other characterised by dialogue and calm. Everyone realises the start of dialogue does not mean a full end to violence. But the emphasis will shift from confrontation to reconciliation. The Kashmiris are amenable to a dialogue outreach from New Delhi; but the government is keeping its cards close to its chest.

It is hard to miss the fatigue amongst Kashmiris, notwithstanding brave words about “a new generation having lost its fear of death”. Since Kashmir went up in flames in mid-2016 with the killing of Burhan Wani – a novice militant whose charisma made him a social media icon amongst Kashmiri youngsters – New Delhi has engaged Kashmir exclusively through the medium of security force operations. New Delhi’s strategy – often referred to as the Doval Doctrine, after National Security Advisor Ajit Doval – rests on the belief that Kashmiris have been pampered for decades (including by Atal Behari Vajpayee’s BJP government) and that they needed a robust reminder that New Delhi had hard options as well. Towards this, the Union government has squeezed the separatists on the simultaneous fronts of counter-militancy operations, economic targeting of separatist finances and incarceration of the separatist leadership. Syed Ali Shah Geelani and Mirwaiz Umar Farooq are mostly under house arrest, while Yasin Malik and Shabir Shah have been consigned to jail. Mainstream politics too has ground to a standstill, with Mehbooba Mufti’s government dismissed and governor’s rule imposed for the foreseeable future. Omar Abdullah’s National Conference is unlikely to be spared either. The administration is in the hands of J&K Governor Satya Pal Malik, who has a well-deserved reputation for breath-taking faux pas. On Sunday, Malik urged militants to kill “the corrupt people who have looted Kashmir”, instead of killing innocents such as police officers. Facing accusations of endangering mainstream politicians and bureaucrats, Malik has clarified that he spoke in his individual capacity, not as governor. 

If there is fatigue amongst the Kashmir public, the security forces must also be feeling like they are running up a down-coming escalator. J&K Police violence statistics for the last decade starkly illustrate the lost opportunity for initiating political dialogue in 2013-15, when the violent street uprisings of 2008-10 had cooled, tourism was booming and there were just 150 active militants in Kashmir. Instead, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government’s majoritarian agenda drove Kashmir back into alienation. After Burhan Wani’s death in mid-2016, the flames have only leapt higher. The security forces kill a growing number of terrorists each year at a growing cost to themselves. Worse, from 2009-12, more than three terrorists were killed for each dead soldier. Since 2016, the cost in blood has almost doubled. If these troubling violence figures are to be mitigated, a fresh political engagement of Kashmir is essential.


J&K Security Situation^

Incidents
2009
2010
2011
2012
2013
2014
2015
2016
2017
2018
2019*












Grenade attacks
56
37
25
28
15
23
28
40
51
91
51
IED explosions
23
28
16
5
5
9
3
3
1
10
7
Arson 
21
23
4
2
1
1
0
0
0
0
0
Random firing
82
74
52
33
40
50
37
67
78
87
43
Cross firing
180
191
89
50
43
57
63
101
133
189
81
Arms snatching
2
2
1
5
7
6
8
11
6
12
2
Abduction
20
12
8
1
2
5
4
1
10
28
5
Violent incidents^
384
367
195
124
113
151
143
223
279
417
189












Civilians killed
63
47
31
15
15
35
22
20
51
55
23
Security forces killed#
79
69
33
15
53
47
39
82
80
91
76
Terrorists killed
239
232
100
72
67
110
108
150
213
257
127
Soldier--militant kill ratio
3.02
3.36
3.03
4.8
1.26
2.34
2.76
1.82
2.66
2.82
1.67













^ J&K Police official figures
* Up to 19th July 2019
# Including army, rashtriya rifles, CAPFs and J&K state police
^  Including grenade attacks, improvised explosive devices, cross firing, arms snatching and abductions

While little is yet conclusive, it appears there might be one in the offing. Home Minister Amit Shah visited Kashmir last month and addressed the panchayat (local government) heads elected in December. On Saturday, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh declared that Kashmir would be resolved soon and “no power on earth can stop it”. Quickly tamping down on any optimism, he added: “If not through talks, then we know another way too.” Meanwhile, sources in Srinagar say the prime minister’s office has intensified the monitoring of the economic schemes it initiated – also pointing to elections.

Kashmiri political leaders believe the BJP is kick-starting politics towards a clear end: Forming a BJP-led government in Kashmir, which can lead the way to abrogating Articles 35A and 370 of the Constitution. Kashmiri politicians and security managers are wary about such a plan, warning that any political erosion of Kashmiri identity markers would constitute a red line that should preferably not be challenged. Mufti has already stated that, if Article 35A is challenged, “there will be no one left to hold [the national flag in Kashmir].”

However, the BJP apparently believes that a political majority and an enhanced security presence to control the reactions would allow it to ram through the changes. Obtaining a political majority involves sweeping the 37 seats in Jammu and two out of the four in Ladakh through a polarising electoral agenda; and winning a handful of seats in Kashmir to achieve a majority in the 87-seat J&K Assembly. The Kashmiri seats can only be achieved by fragmenting Abdullah’s National Conference and Mufti’s People’s Democratic Party, while simultaneously tying up with smaller Kashmiri players like Engineer Sheikh Abdul Rashid, Sajjad Lone and former Indian Administrative Service officer, Shah Faesal.

Without a dialogue aimed at engaging and co-opting the separatist hard core, such political machinations are likely to only discredit New Delhi further. Alongside a reconciliation dialogue, the government must also actively facilitate Kashmiri youth to move out of the state into mainstream India, providing visible alternatives even for those who stay back. The north-eastern states, once riven with insurgencies, are being steadily assimilated as large numbers of their youngsters find jobs in service industries in mainstream India. It would be useful to facilitate such a path for Kashmir’s youngsters as well.