Monday, 29 August 2011

Defence Minister Antony says Arjun Mk II will cost Rs 37 crore (US $8 million) per tank

The Arjun Mark II, an upgraded version of the Mark I pictured here, will roll out by 2015, says Antony

Answering a question in parliament today, Defence Minister AK Antony put the price of the Arjun Mk II at Rs 37 crore per tank. The Arjun Mk I had been produced by Heavy Vehicles Factory, Avadi for about Rs 16-18 crore per tank.

The official release about Antony's answer in parliament today to a question on the price of the Arjun is attached below

New Delhi: Bhadrapada 07, 1933
August 29, 2011

Limited technical trials with some major and minor improvements on Main Battle Tank (MBT) Arjun Mark-I, as part of MBT Arjun Mark-II, have been carried out by the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) in the deserts of Rajasthan.

Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) has cleared the proposal for placement of indent for 124 Nos. of MBT Arjun Mark-II on Heavy Vehicles Factory (HVF), Avadi, Chennai. Placement of indent by the Army on Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) is being further processed.

The likely estimated cost of each MBT Arjun Mark-II with ail major/minor improvements will be approximately Rs.37 crore.

The first batch of MBT Arjun Mark-II is likely to be productionised by 2015.

This information was given by Defence Minister Shri AK Antony in a written reply to Shri Naveen Jindal in Lok Sabha today.

New Delhi could have anti-missile shield by 2014

The Prithvi Air Defence (PAD) interceptor, which can intercept an incoming ballistic missile at altitudes greater than 80 kilometers above the earth. This is likely to be tested shortly

Ajai Shukla
Business Standard
29th Aug 11

According to a new Pentagon report on China’s military, Beijing has paid India a sort of compliment. The People’s Liberation Army now targets India with its best and latest nuclear-tipped missiles, the solid-fuel Dongfeng-21 (NATO designation: CSS-5) medium range ballistic missile (MRBM), tipped with a 250-kiloton nuclear warhead that would flatten a large part of Delhi. Until now, India had been considered deserving only of China’s oldest and most decrepit missile, the primitive, liquid-fuelled Dongfeng-3 (NATO designation CSS-2).

India’s defence establishment is taking this new threat seriously, as also that posed by Pakistan’s nuclear-tipped MRBMs — like the Ghauri-2 and the Shaheen-2 — which can strike targets 2300 kilometres away. In an exclusive interview with Business Standard, the Defence R&D Organisation’s chief missile scientist has announced that, within three years, India will have a fully deployed missile-defence shield to safeguard a city like New Delhi from missile-borne nuclear attack.

Termed an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) shield, this complex system has been in the making since 1996. The DRDO is satisfied with the system’s ability to detect and track an incoming missile, and then launch an interceptor missile to destroy it while it is still in space (exo-atmospheric interception). If that misses, there is a second interceptor that homes in on the enemy missile while it is in the upper atmosphere (endo-atmospheric interception). In internationally watched tests, these interceptors have been tested thrice each.
But only now has the DRDO announced that a fully integrated ABM system is close to deployment. Says Dr Avinash Chander, the DRDO’s Chief Controller for Missiles and Strategic Systems; “We can deploy an effective ABM system for a single city within 3 years from now. We can definitely ensure the safety of one city in that time frame. After that, the [ABM shield for] other cities will follow.”

Chander will not confirm that Delhi will receive India’s first ABM shield but, given Delhi’s vulnerability to MRBMs from Pakistan and China, and its status as the capital city, experts predict that it will almost certainly be the first city to be safeguarded.

“We are planning more ABM trials in a month or two. Both exo and endo-atmospheric interceptors are doing well in development. We already have a demonstrated capability against enemy missiles that are fired from up to 2000 kilometres away. After some more trials we will be going into deployment mode. The ground systems and the missiles are going to be available… there is no issue,” says Chander.

The sophistication of an ABM system depends upon the range of the incoming enemy missile. The longer the range of the incoming missile, the faster it travels and the more difficult it is to it detect and shoot it down. The missiles that currently target India — the Shaheen; the Ghauri; and the Dongfeng-21 — can all be successfully intercepted, says the DRDO.

“Pakistan can only target India with missiles that have ranges of less than 3000 kilometers, otherwise the missile will overshoot India. Our ABM system will be capable of detecting and shooting down incoming missiles from those ranges,” says Chander.

However China, with its arsenal of longer-range intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and the geographical space to launch missiles from thousands of kilometres away, is capable of defeating India’s ABM system in its current form. The DRDO says that it will gradually enhance the ABM system to enable the interception of longer-range missiles.

For now, deployment is on track, says the DRDO’s missile chief. The radar network that is needed to detect an incoming enemy missile is already being sited. This includes a Long Range Tracking Radar (LRTR), which Bangalore-based Electronics and Radar Development Establishment (LRDE) has developed in collaboration with Israeli company, ELTA. The LRTR picks up incoming missiles at ranges out to 300 kilometres.

The ABM system also has a “guidance radar”, which tracks the incoming missile in its terminal phase and guides the interceptor missile onto the target. The DRDO developed the guidance radar in collaboration with French company, Thales. In addition, ABM systems also use satellite-based detection systems to detect enemy missile launches.

ABM systems are controversial; strategists argue that they destabilise a nuclear balance, incentivising the production of more nuclear weapons to defeat an enemy’s ABM shield. Indeed, Pakistan now has the world’s fastest growing nuclear arsenal after it aggressively expanded its Khushab reactor complex to produce more plutonium for bombs.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

IAF "Siachen Pioneers" squadron rescues American climber from 23,000 feet on Saser Kangri II


The IAF press release describing the rescue is pasted below


New Delhi – 27th August 2011

In a span of less than four days yet another daring rescue mission was successfully undertaken by pilots of Leh based Helicopter Unit, when they evacuated one American national. Steven John Swenson from one of the most difficult glacier, named ‘Shupka Kunzang’ located at the base of Saser Kangri-II peak in the East Karakoram range of Ladakh region in India.

On 26 Aug 11, an Indo-American team of mountaineers was braving the Saser Kangri-II peak, when one of the team members got seriously ill due to extremely high altitude. The team requested for an immediate air rescue through their organising agency & embassy.

On receiving the request, realizing the seriousness of casualty and criticality of time available during the day, HQ WAC swung into action seeking clearances, issuing orders and monitoring progress of the mission. A two helicopter rescue team of ‘Siachen Pioneers’ Squadron led by Wg Cdr S Srinivasan got airborne from Leh Air Force Base, within a matter of minutes. The rescue team which comprised Wg Cdr DC Tiwari, Flt Lt A Agrawal and Flt Lt A K Bharmoria, led by Wg Cdr S Srinivasan knew well the challenges they were about to face but upholding the unit tradition they decided to take on the mission and operated their machines to the fringes of their limits as the mission involved flying into unknown territory and landing at a density altitude of approximately 23000 ft over an inhospitable glacier. Accurate navigation and correct assessment of the prevailing situation ensured that the helicopters reached the site at the earliest which was vital in saving the life of the critically ill expedition member. After assessing the landing site which was covered with snow and wide crevasses of the glacier, Wg Cdr S Srinivasan manoeuvered his helicopter to land in the restricted area with negligible reserve of power. Without wasting any time the casualty was taken onboard while the second helicopter maintained a close vigil from the top.

Mission leader described the criticality of mission; “in quickly locating casualty in the vast glaciated region and finding suitable landing spot close to the casualty are the most important”. He added “winds are peculiar in such regions and turbulence affects handling of the helicopter”. In snow laden terrain and narrow confines of the valley, manoeuvering a helicopter is very challenging. High temperatures in the afternoon hours further increase difficulty level as air density reduces. All planned missions at such altitudes are undertaken at early hours of the day, when ambient temperatures are the lowest. The “Siachen Pioneers” crew displayed highest level of professionalism, planning and courage without fearing for their own safety, resulting in the successful completion of the mercy mission which was more than evident from the convincing smile of patient, Mr. Steven John Swenson. While the team of two helicopters was daring the glaciers, the Commanding Officer of Helicopter Unit monitored and guided his unit pilots throughout the mission ensuring that all necessary information and services worked in unison towards successful execution of this mission.

Air Cmde S P Wagle VM, Air Officer Commanding Air Force Station Leh, personally supervised and coordinated the entire mission. He was on the tarmac as the two helicopters landed after the successful evacuation at 4:51PM. The casualty was transferred into a waiting ambulance, checked and stablised by the IAF medics and carried to General Hospital, Leh for further treatment. Mission Leader Wg Cdr S Srinivasan debriefed the crew in presence of the AOC and Commanding Officer – Wg Cdr UK Bhaduria. The AOC complimented the Commanding Officer and ‘boys’ for the job well done!

With this, the ‘Siachen Pioneers’ added another feather in their cap. Once again Air Force Station Leh and the Helicopter Unit have lived up to their motto “WE DO THE DIFFICULT AS A ROUTINE, THE IMPOSSIBLE (MAY) TAKE A BIT LONGER”. Where, just landing at these altitudes on prepared helipad is a tough ask, evacuation of casualty from a glaciated and unprepared surface with no margin of error makes the mission planning and execution a daunting task. More importantly, no time can be wasted on ground as it can make all the difference between life and death for a critical casualty. Mission planning, experience, adherence to laid down procedures, applications, Crew Resource Management and courage of the pilots are the factors that contribute to success of such missions, when operating the machines to the limit of its design performance. Courage of the pilots reaches out across the globe as the Karakoram mountain ranges beckons mountaineers and trekkers for the challenges it presents to them - as well as- to the pilots of, the ‘ Siachen Pioneers’.

"Know your battleship" quiz: who can identify all the sensors and weapons on INS Satpura?

On the right is the Satpura at its launch in Mumbai last week. You are invited to identify its weapons and sensors fit... in the photos numbered from 1 to 6 below. Best answers win.

(Left) Photo No 1... and so on

Friday, 26 August 2011

Mahindra anti-mine vehicles for Naxal ops

Brig Khutab Hai, MD & CEO Defence Land Systems India, hands over the key to the first MPV-I to Jharkhand Additional DG Police, BB Pradhan

by Ajai Shukla
Palwal, Haryana
Business Standard, 26th Aug 11

For a decade, hapless jawans travelling across the Naxal belt in shoddy mine-protected vehicles (MPVs) built by the Ordnance Factory Board (OFB) rested their hopes for survival on a single bizarre test. In this, a live pig was strapped into an MPV, which was then subjected to a mine blast at a MoD facility near Chandigarh. The pig survived and so too, it was assumed, would the jawans.

Beginning today, these policemen have more to pin their hopes on. At its production facility near Palwal, Haryana, Defence Land Systems India (DLSI) handed over to the Jharkhand Police the first of 6 modern mine protected vehicles for that landmine prone state. Designed by South African vehicle protection specialist, OMC, the Jharkhand Police’s new Mine Protected Vehicle – India (MPV-I) has been tested in South Africa to global standards, using million-dollar mannequins, and found capable of protecting passengers even when subjected to a blast from 21 kilos of TNT.

DLSI, a joint venture between the Mahindra group and UK-based BAE Systems (Mahindra 74%: BAE Systems 26%), anticipates a burgeoning market for protected vehicles. The Mahindra group began its charge into the defence market with protected vehicles, selling about 1500 smaller models since 2001, including the Rakshak, the Marksman and the Rapid Intervention Vehicle (RIV). But the big money is in MPVs, each of which costs close to one crore rupees. In that, there has been little headway until this first order from the Jharkhand Police.

“The equipping of police forces in the Naxal-affected states with 300 MPVs will reduce casualties by some 90%,” argues Brigadier (Retired) Khutab Hai, who heads Mahindra’s defence business. This year alone, almost 300 security personnel have been killed or injured in blasts from 76 improvised explosive devices (IEDs), the crude but powerful devices that insurgents have mastered.

But in the Maoist heartland of Chhatisgarh, MPVs have disappointed. In early 2005, there was euphoria after all 17 policemen travelling in a MPV survived a Naxal IED attack in Narayanpur, in Bastar. But that enthusiasm was short-lived as the Naxals modified their tactics. In their next attack, in Bijapur district in September 2005, they replaced the 10-kilo Narayanpur IED with a massive 40-kilo IED, targeting an MPV procured from Ordnance Factory, Medak. The force of that blast threw the MPV up in the air, killing 24 CRPF jawans whose bodies were barely recognisable. After that, the security forces in Chhatisgarh shrink from travelling in MPVs, except on blacktopped highways where no IEDs can be buried.

“An MPV makes an attractive target for the Naxals and, as we increase the armour, they just increase the explosive in the IED. In Chhatisgarh we use MPVs only for activities like convoy escort, where they can be used as mobile pillboxes from where policemen can fire on insurgents that are attempting an ambush. But for off-the-road movement, the security forces have to rely on smaller, less conspicuous vehicles or, better still, move on foot,” says Brigadier (Retired) Basant Ponwar, who heads the Chhatisgarh government’s Counter Terrorism and Jungle Warfare (CTJW) college in Kanker.

As recently as 10th June, near Dantewada in Bastar, 10 policemen who were travelling in an MPV at night, were killed in an IED attack.

But the Jharkhand Police, which has already bought 150 smaller protected vehicles from DLSI, is confident that its new MPV-I will serve their purpose. Says BB Pradhan, Additional DG Police, Jharkhand : “Our first responsibility is to protect our men from the explosions of landmines. There is no real foolproof protection from landmine attacks, the world over. But technology is improving everyday…. I am very optimistic that the MPV-I will prove successful.”

Besides purchases by Naxal-affected states, DLSI hopes for orders from the army, a potentially large user of MPVs. There is a viewpoint that MPVs could serve a dual purpose: for counter-insurgency operations in peacetime and to convey jawans into enemy territory during war, for attacks on enemy strong points or important towns. While no army requirement has been formalised, or tender issued, the acceptance of this viewpoint would make the army a major buyer of MPVs.

The MPV-I traces its design back to the redoubtable Casspir MPVs, which the Indian Army used extensively in J&K. The special armoured steel for the MPV-I’s protective body comes from Sweden; it is built into a monocoque body using kits imported from South Africa. The engine and chassis are from Russian Ural vehicles that are manufactured at Haldia, West Bengal. Using these inputs, DLSI has the capacity to build 100-120 MPV-I per year.

The Tatas and Ashok Leyland have also tried to crack the MPV market, but without success. Their MPVs are significantly lighter than DLSI’s and are designed to withstand just 8-10 kilos of TNT, compared to the 21 kilo blast-resistance of the MPV-I. The six-wheeled MPV-I also provides greater safety than the four-wheeled Tata and Leyland MPVs.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

New strike corps for China border

Tibet's Chumbi valley, as seen from Nathu La in Sikkim. India's new strike corps would respond to Chinese aggression with an attack into territorial salients like the Chumbi valley

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 24th Aug 11

In 2009, New Delhi acted decisively in sanctioning two new army divisions, about 35,000 troops, to strengthen Indian defences in Arunachal, which China claims as a part of Tibet. It can now be revealed that New Delhi has also sanctioned a new mountain strike corps, consisting of an additional 40,000 soldiers, which will be permanently located in bases in northeast India. The new corps will retaliate against any major Chinese ingress into India by launching an offensive into Tibet.

For decades after India’s humiliation at the hands of China in 1962, New Delhi shrank from a robust defence posture on the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control (LAC), fearing that it might provoke China. In the aftermath of 1962, through the 1960s and 1970s, the Indian Army stayed away from the border, remaining behind a self-imposed “Limit of Patrolling (LoP)”. In the 1980s, the army returned to the LAC, but remained entirely defensive in outlook. The sanctioning of a strike corps, therefore, signals a dramatic new assertiveness in New Delhi.

Business Standard has been aware of this development since 2009, but has refrained from reporting on it after requests from top-level MoD officials. Now, with the outlines of this development emerging in the media, Business Standard no longer feels bound by confidentiality.

The new mountain strike corps will control two divisions that are specially trained and equipped for an attack into Tibet. If China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) captures any Indian territory, by quickly concentrating an attacking force over Tibet’s impressive road network, the Indian Army would not be forced into bloody, Kargil-style counterattacks to recapture that territory. Instead, the new strike corps would launch its own riposte, advancing into Tibet and capturing a vulnerable chunk of Chinese territory, e.g. the Chumbi Valley that projects into Sikkim and Bhutan. Several such objectives would be identified in advance and detailed preparations made for the offensives.

The new strike corps will have its own mountain artillery, combat engineers, anti-aircraft guns and radio equipment. It would also be supported by Indian Air Force (IAF) fighters, operating from newly renovated bases in northeastern India. On 26th July, the then IAF chief confirmed that Sukhoi-30 fighters have already been deployed to air bases at Tezpur and Chhabua. On 25th June, he told NDTV that Jorhat, Guwahati, Mohanbari, Bagdogra and Hashimara were also being developed as air bases. The IAF is also modernising eight ALGs (Advanced Landing Grounds), which would be essential for quickly building up and resupplying a strike corps. These air bases would also be crucial for airborne operations, especially heli-lifting forces to key objectives behind the enemy frontlines.

The proposal to raise two additional divisions for the defence of Arunachal Pradesh as well as a strike corps dates back to 2007. It began as a decision of the China Study Group, a secretive government body that considers all strategic issues relating to China. Thereafter, the army’s Directorate General of Military Operations (DGMO) prepared a cabinet note. The decision to raise the additional divisions was taken by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) on 14th May 2009. This was the last major decision taken by the UPA government before the elections of 2009. It was rushed through because top UPA leaders felt that, if the UPA were not re-elected, the new government would begin the decision-making process afresh, losing another two years.

To manage the expenses, it was decided that the two defensive mountain divisions would first be raised during the 11th army plan (2007-2012). Next, the strike corps, including its two mountain divisions, would be raised during the 12th Defence Plan (2012-2017). The cost of raising a new Indian Army mountain division is estimated to be Rs 700 crore.

The 4057-kilometre LAC consists of three sectors. In the western sector in Ladakh, which India’s 14 Corps defends, the PLA already controls most of the area that China claims. The central sector, at the UP-Tibet border, which India’s 6 Mountain Division defends, is relatively insignificant. The most contentious sector is the eastern sector, which includes Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh, where China claims 90,000 square kilometres of territory that India occupies. It is here, driven by fear of Chinese aggression, that India is strengthening its capabilities by raising new formations.

A mountain strike corps will provide India with strategic capabilities that were badly missed when Mao Tse-tung marched the PLA into Tibet in 1950. While considering its responses, the Indian government asked the army chief of that time, General (later Field Marshal) KM Cariappa, what resources he had to intervene on behalf of Tibet. Cariappa could spare just one battalion (800 soldiers). And so New Delhi watched as Tibet was subjugated and the China border advanced all the way to the Himalayas.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Building a submarine fleet

A view of the East Yard (the green-roofed building on the waterfront, where MDL is building six Scorpene submarines under Project 75.

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 23rd Aug 11

The Indian Navy has acted decisively over the years to create the capability and infrastructure needed for building surface battleships, but it has dithered in setting up an industry that could build submarines. Consequently, even as India’s 140-ship surface fleet is an imposing presence across a swathe of the northern Indian Ocean Region (IOR) from the Gulf of Hormuz to the Strait of Malacca, its 14 diesel-electric submarines hardly provide a matching underwater capability. Meanwhile China, with at least 53 conventional and 7 nuclear attack submarines (SSNs), poses a viable threat to our waters. Even Pakistan is boosting its submarine fleet to 11 vessels, of which 9 will have air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems that are superior to anything in the Indian Navy.

What makes submarines so important? Naval warfare is about gaining “sea control”, or dominating an operationally important tract of water. In a war with China or Pakistan “sea control” would enable the Indian Navy to bottle up enemy warships in their harbours; prevent seaborne operations by the enemy; and block commercial vessels from resupplying those countries. Sea control is a rich man’s game, requiring the deployment of naval assets in multiple dimensions: underwater; surface, aerial and space. India can hope to gain sea control only in its vicinity, i.e. the northern IOR.

Then there is “sea denial”, a less force-intensive, spoiler’s option in which a navy deploys submarines and lays mines to deny the enemy sea control. For example, three or four Pakistani submarines lurking off India’s west coast would tie up Indian naval assets in locating and neutralising them, diverting those Indian vessels from the task of sea control. The longer a submarine can lurk underwater, i.e. “remain on patrol”, the longer it ties down enemy assets. Diesel-electric submarines like the Indian Navy’s must resurface periodically to charge their batteries, giving away surprise. In contrast, submarines with air-independent propulsion (AIP), and SSNs, can remain submerged far longer.

The Indian Navy, which aspires to “blue water” capability, must be capable of sea control in certain sectors, as well as sea denial further away, e.g. at the choke points leading into the Indian Ocean from the South China Sea. That requires at least 24 conventional submarines for our coastal waters; and at least 5-7 SSNs that can carry out sea denial for extended durations at very long ranges.

Unfortunately, the building of such a submarine force has been beset with blunders. The Indian Navy makes do with 14 old-style, diesel-electric submarines, of which just 7-8 are operational at any time. Six Scorpene submarines are currently being built under Project 75, but when they come on stream by late 2018 an almost equivalent number will have retired from the current fleet.

The Ministry of Defence and the navy are aware of this crisis. In 1999, the cabinet approved a 30-Year Submarine Construction Plan, for constructing 24 conventional submarines in India. Two simultaneous construction lines were to build six submarines each. One line was to use western technology; and the other Russian know-how. Based on this experience, Indian designers would build the next 12 submarines.

Twenty years after the plan was finalised, i.e. in 2019, India will have built just six Scorpene submarines. The reason is as simple as it is astonishing: with Indian shipyards competing to build tens of thousands of crore rupees worth of submarines, the MoD has failed spectacularly to bring any order to this melee. Instead of adjudicating decisively, setting up design and construction partnerships, and placing orders in good time, the MoD has --- in typical Antony style --- avoided a decision. Instead, it has set up committee after committee to identify which shipyard should get the orders. The latest, the Krishnamurthi Committee, has submitted split findings, setting the stage for Antony to launch a fresh round of doing nothing.

It is time to thin out the crowded field of aspirants. Within the public sector, only Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL) has built submarines. Its ongoing Project 75 to build six Scorpene submarines should be extended by another three vessels. Of these nine vessels, the last six must have AIP and the ability to fire missiles, changes that can be made easily. This should be India’s west coast production line.

On the east coast, L&T (which has gained experience building India’s nuclear submarine, the Arihant) should be permitted to join hands with Hindustan Shipyard Ltd (HSL), the MoD’s new shipyard in Vishakhapatnam, for building a second line of submarines with Russian technology. The L&T-HSL JV should also be designated the node for developing and building a line of SSNs, which remains a glaring hole in India’s defence capabilities. Every other country with nuclear submarine capability first built SSNs before developing the technology for SSBNs, as nuclear ballistic missile submarines are called. India alone has begun with a complex SSBN (the INS Arihant) and is continuing building more SSBNs without taking on the simpler design challenge of SSNs. Now, having leased the INS Chakra, an Akula class SSN, from Russia for the next ten years, India must integrate these experiences into an indigenous SSN line.

Meanwhile, the MoD must ensure that the expensive (Rs 6000 crore) technology that it bought for the Scorpene, and will buy for the Russian submarine line, fructify into a world-class indigenous design. This will require close involvement from the navy’s integral design establishment. A concurrent role must be allocated to NIRDESH, the newly set up National Institute for Research and Development in Defence Shipbuilding.

Mazagon sees opening in submersible drift

MDL chief proposes building 3-6 more Scorpenes while the MoD decides on Project 75I

Ajai Shukla
Mazagon Dock, Mumbai
23rd Aug 11

With India's submarine acquisition programme tangled in a decade-old logjam, defence shipyard Mazagon Dock Ltd (MDL) has staked claim for Project 75I, a line of six advanced submarines for the Indian Navy.

MDL is already building Project 75, for six Scorpene submarines, using technology from Armaris, the Franco-Spanish shipbuilder. It believes the decision-making paralysis that has stymied Project 75I will allow MDL to build at least three, and possibly six, more Scorpenes after completing Project 75.

Project 75I is in the doldrums, after three Ministry of Defence (MoD) committees failed to zero on the Indian shipyards capable of participating in such a project. Besides MDL, already engaged in Project 75, Larsen & Toubro is competing fiercely for Project 75I, flaunting its role in building INS Arihant, the country’s first nuclear submarine. As time has passed without a decision, new contenders, particularly Pipavav Shipyard and the MoD's newly-acquired Hindustan Shipyard Ltd have also emerged as contenders.

Meanwhile, the MoD is more fuddled than ever after its third and latest high-power committee, headed by V Krishnamurthy, chairman of the National Manufacturing Competitiveness Council, failed to agree on which shipyard(s) should be awarded Project 75I. The MoD is currently pondering the Krishnamurthy committee's divided recommendations. An earlier MoD decision to build three Project 75I submarines at MDL, one at HSL and two in the private sector or abroad now stands scrapped.

With tendering nowhere in sight, the chief of MDL, Vice Admiral (retd) H S Malhi, says their Project 75 Scorpene production line provides a handy springboard for Project 75I. MDL, as Malhi notes, has the facilities, the experience, the workmen and an ongoing workflow that make it easy to extend the six-Scorpene order of Project 75, improving the specifications if the navy so requires.

Malhi mobilises a powerful financial argument: India has already paid Rs 6,000 crore for Scorpene technology. Building additional Scorpenes would only require the payment of licence fees. Choosing another design would require paying for technology afresh.

“If the tender for Project 75I is going to be delayed by another two-three years, we can easily extend the current Scorpene order by another three submarines. Else, Project 75I could be a Scorpene-plus, a more potent submarine, with Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) and the ability to launch missiles. The technology we have already paid for would be amortised over a larger number of submarines, making these cheaper,” he argues.


Sections of the Indian Navy would welcome more Scorpenes quickly, in the face of a worrisome submarine build-up by China and Pakistan. However, a powerful lobby within the navy, which favours Russian submarines, opposes extending the Scorpene order. They have a potent political argument against ordering more Scorpenes, that Project 75 was not competitively bid but was a controversial, single-vendor purchase. Enlarging the order would be fraught with political risk.

Further, going by the navy's 30-year Submarine Construction Plan, which the apex Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) okayed in 1999, Project 75I must build Russian submarines. The 30-year plan for constructing 24 conventional submarines in India envisages two simultaneous construction lines: one building six submarines from western technology and another building six submarines from eastern bloc (i.e. Russian) know-how. Based on the experience gathered, India would build another 12 submarines to an indigenous design.

Project 75, for six Scorpenes, is the western technology line. The next six must incorporate Russian technology, according to the 30-year plan. Indian Navy submarine folklore believes Russian designs feature greater endurance and firepower; while western designs are stealthier and harder to detect. Indian designers are to incorporate the best of both traditions into the 12 indigenous submarines.

MDL faces flak for a three-year delay in Project 75, but Malhi has strongly defended his shipyard's record. Admitting the first Scorpene would indeed be delivered three years late (in mid-2015, instead of 2012), Malhi says he will deliver the remaining five submarines at eight-month intervals instead of the 12-month interval originally planned. That means all six Scorpenes will be delivered by September 2018, just nine months later than the scheduled completion of Project 75.

MDL plans to achieve this by setting up a second Scorpene line at a recently acquired shipyard, the Alcock Yard, within its premises in Mumbai. After mid-2013, all six submarines will be outfitted simultaneously, the first three in the current workshop, and the next three in Alcock Yard.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Warship Identification Quiz... what are these fancy decoration pieces?

I encountered these smartly turned out vessels near where the Satpura was berthed. Which vessels are they? Best answer wins...

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Stealth warship INS Satpura joins navy

Ajai Shukla
Mumbai, 22nd Aug 11

In a centuries-old naval ritual in Mumbai on Saturday, navy chief Admiral Nirmal Verma commissioned into active service Indian Naval Ship (INS) Satpura.

“I wish the crew fair winds and following seas”, Verma intoned, in the traditional naval goodwill message, before raising the Indian flag on the Satpura’s helicopter deck and unveiling the ships plaque. The band struck up the national anthem, the tricolour was raised on the helicopter deck and INS Satpura became the 140th warship of the Indian Navy.

The INS Satpura, which follows the INS Shivalik into service, is the second of three Project 17 stealth frigates that are being built by Mazagon Dock Ltd, Mumbai. It will be followed by INS Sahyadri early next year. These three “state-of-the-art surface combatants” as Verma called them — trace their design ancestry to three Talwar-class frigates that Russia built for the navy a decade ago. However the Shivalik-class, as INS Shivalik, Satpura and Sahyadri are classified (after the first vessel in the series), are significantly heavier than the 4,100-tonne Talwar-class frigates, giving them the capability to absorb, as well as deliver, heavier blows in battle.

Officially termed a guided-missile frigate, the Satpura weighs in at a muscular 6,200 tonnes. Frigates typically weigh 4,500-6,500 tonnes; the next-higher class of warships, called destroyers, begin at about 7,000 tonnes. The Satpura carries 24 Russian Klub missiles, which can hit ground targets more than two hundred kilometres away with pinpoint precision. The Indian Navy would have liked the Satpura to carry the more capable and lethal Brahmos missile, but that is too heavy for the frigate. Only the Indian Navy’s destroyers are currently armed with the Brahmos.

The Satpura is also equipped with the Israeli Barak air defence system, to ward off enemy aircraft and missiles. It has torpedoes to deal with enemy submarines, as well as an RBU-6,000 multi-barrelled rocket launchers that can be set to explode underwater. Posted on board the Satpura is a tiny aviation unit, with hangars and facilities for two Sea King, or indigenous Dhruv helicopters.

Driving this 142 metre-long warship through the water are two French Pielstick diesel engines. In addition, there are two General Electric LM-2500 gas turbines. This provides the advantage of fuel-efficient operation in the normal course, using the Pielstick diesels, while the gas turbines take over when bursts of speed are required, especially in battle. This is known as CODOG (combined diesel or gas) configuration.

But the Satpura’s key advantage is stealth. Its design reduces the vessel’s radar, infrared, electronic, acoustic and visual signatures, making it difficult for the enemy to detect it. The design skills needed for building stealth vessels like the Satpura have been honed by Indian shipyards over time, and are reaching their finest in Project 28, a line of ultra-stealthy, anti-submarine corvettes that are being built at Garden Reach Shipbuilders and Engineers, Kolkata. Stealth will also form an important component of the seven Project 17A frigates that will start being built next year as the the navy’s next line of frigates.

Along with satisfaction at the Satpura’s world-class capabilities, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) remains concerned over the high level of imported components in these warships. According to the official navy figures requested by Business Standard, the total cost of Project 17A (i.e. the cost of three Shivalik-class frigates) will be Rs 7,883 crore. Of this, Rs 2,710 crore have been spent on foreign equipment, that includes the on-board weapons, sensors and radars, engines, transmission, etc.

During the commissioning, the naval chief admitted the Satpura’s indigenous component amounted to no more than 60 per cent. Much of that amount, however, goes towards the cost of labour etc. The high-tech equipment remains mainly imported.

Notwithstanding that, the navy justifiably claims credit for indigenising the crucial dimensions of design and integration. Vice Admiral Ganesh Mahadevan, the navy’s Chief of Materials, claims that indigenisation will rise dramatically in the next two lines of warships that are coming on stream next year, i.e. in Project 15B (four destroyers) and Project 17A (seven frigates).

An important driver in lowering the cost of imported equipment is the agreement with Essar Steel for manufacturing warship-grade steel. So far, owing to SAIL’s refusal to engage in the complex manufacture of the specialised metal, which the dockyards require in relatively small and commercially unviable quantities, shipyards were left with no option but to import from Russia. Now, Essar Steel will be manufacturing the few thousands of tonnes of warship grade steel that will be needed for Projects 15B and Project 17A.

What an interesting view. Any ideas what that is?

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Off to Mazagon Dock... for the commissioning of INS Satpura!

This was the Satpura, moments after it was launched into the water. On Saturday, it will be commissioned into the Indian Navy as its second Shivalik class frigate. Stand by for more...

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Concerns over China’s new aircraft carrier

(Left) The Varyag after its return from its first sea trials. It was accompanied by the large vessel, marked 88, during the five-day voyage in the vicinity of Dalian.

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 16th Aug 11

China’s first aircraft carrier returned to its home base of Dalian on Sunday after a debut voyage of five days. The Chinese media describes the jubilation of a crowd at the dockside that, after witnessing the giant vessel emerge from a thick fog three kilometres away, set off firecrackers to welcome home the most keenly watched warship in the resurgent People’s Liberation Army Navy, or PLA(N).

This is the vessel formerly known as Varyag, a massive, 58,500 tonne, 300-metre-long Admiral Kuznetsov class aircraft carrier that was being built in Ukraine when the Soviet Union disintegrated. Strapped for funds, Ukraine put the semi-complete vessel up for auction in 1998; a Chinese company, Chong Lot Travel Agency, bought it for US $20 million claiming that they wanted it for a floating casino in Macau. Instead it docked at Dalian, was painted PLA(N) grey, and refurbished over a decade into a functional aircraft carrier.

But experts are sceptical about its combat capabilities. Ruslan Pukhov of the Moscow Strategy and Technologies Analysis Centre says the vessel was obsolete even before it was purchased. China’s Defence Ministry spokesman, Geng Yansheng, says the ex-Varyag will be used for “scientific research, experiment and training.”

Nor has the PLA(N) displayed confidence by planning the sea trials so close by the Dalian dockyard. While an “exclusion zone” that China declared in the Yellow Sea and Liaoning Bay led to breathless speculation that the PLA(N) might include simulated aircraft landings during the sea trials, no such trials were conducted.

Experience remains the PLA(N)’s bottleneck. Despite possessing an aircraft carrier and a fighter capable of operating from it (the Shenyang J-15 “Flying Shark”, evidently reverse-engineered from Russia’s Sukhoi-33 fighter), the PLA(N) remains to develop the specialised skills needed for aircraft carrier operations. The flight deck of a carrier that is launching aircraft, or recovering them, is an exceptionally busy place, with scores of sailors simultaneously performing crucial and interlinked tasks. Even as fighters are taking off and landing, others are being moved around on the deck, between the hangars and the deck, and being refuelled or replenished with ammunition. Fine judgement is needed to gauge when the sea is too rough for flying operations. There is no place for error; the US Navy lost about 12,000 aircraft and 8,500 airmen between 1949 (when the US Navy started deploying jets in sizeable numbers on aircraft carriers) and 1988 (when accident rates came down to US Air Force levels). While the PLA(N) will enjoy a steeper learning curve, naval aviation experts estimate that it will take at least 5-10 years to achieve proficiency in aircraft carrier combat operations.

In this key area the Indian Navy scores over the PLA(N), having operated aircraft carriers for half a century (the INS Vikrant, India’s first carrier, was commissioned on 4th Mar 61). India currently has one functional aircraft carrier, the INS Viraat, bought from the Royal Navy in 1987. A second, the 44,000 tonne INS Vikramaditya (the former Admiral Gorshkov) will arrive from Russia by 2012-13. Meanwhile, Cochin Shipyard is constructing a 40,000 vessel, still unnamed, which is referred to as the Indigenous Aircraft Carrier (IAC). This is likely to be followed by more vessels, in the 60,000 tonne category.

But there is concern within the US Navy, which has underwritten peace in the Asia-Pacific since World War II. It is now a declining force with just half as many battleships as it had during the Cold War. Especially worrying are its declining aircraft carrier numbers: down from 15 aircraft carrier battle groups (this includes a flotilla of smaller warships that screen an aircraft carrier from enemy submarines, aircraft, missiles and mines) at the end of the 1980s to just 11 today. “We would welcome any kind of explanation that China would like to give for needing this kind of equipment,” US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said at a press conference last week.

The answer has come from the Chinese media and bloggers, who are calling for the new vessel to be named the “Shi Lang” after a Qing dynasty admiral who conquered Taiwan in 1681. Taiwan is taking China seriously: the Taipei Aerospace and Defense Technology Exhibition that opened in Taipei last Thursday featured the Hsiung Feng III, a Taiwanese supersonic missile with a range of 130 kilometers. The missile was displayed in front of a picture of a burning carrier that bears a striking resemblance to the Varyag.

The PLA, however, is doing little to calm fears. In last Friday’s PLA Daily, Guo Jiuanyue wrote, “If we do not have the courage or will to use it to solve territorial disputes, why would we have built it? Are we spending countless money and occupying quite a part of the national budget to build it only for admiring it or scaring the countries that provoke China? If it is necessary, China will use the aircraft carrier and other kinds of battleships to solve disputes. That is natural and logical.”

Sunday, 14 August 2011

A preview of the Independence Day celebration at the Red Fort in New Delhi tomorrow


The Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh will unfurl the National Flag from the ramparts of the Red Fort on August 15, 2011 to celebrate the 65th Independence Day. After unfurling the Tricolor, Dr. Manmohan Singh will address the nation.

On arrival at Lahore Gate of Red Fort, the Prime Minister will be received by the Defence Minister Shri AK Antony, Minister of State for Defence Shri MM Pallam Raju and Defence Secretary Shri Shashikant Sharma.

The Defence Secretary will introduce the General Officer Commanding, Delhi Area, Major General Manvender Singh to the Prime Minister. The GOC Delhi Area will then conduct the Prime Minister to the Saluting Base where a combined Inter-Services and Police Guard will present general salute to the Prime Minister. Thereafter, Dr. Manmohan Singh will inspect the Guard of Honour.

The Guard of Honour contingent for the Prime Minister will consist of one officer and 24 men each from Army, Navy, Air Force and Delhi Police. The Guard of Honour will be positioned directly in front of the National Flag across the moat below the ramparts.

This year, Army being the coordinating agency, the Guard of Honour will be commanded by Lt Col N Seshagiri Rao of the Madras Regiment. The Army contingent will be commanded by Captain Ashwani Kumar Jha, Naval Contingent by Lt Cdr Vikram Singh, Air Force contingent by Sq Ldr Y Ananth Narayan and the Delhi Police contingent by ACP Rajnish Garg.

The Army contingent for PM’s Guard is drawn from the 28th Battalion of the Madras Regiment. The battalion was raised on 01 July 1976 Guava Hill near Wellington (Ooty) and has completed 35 glorious years of service. It has served with distinction in all kinds of operational environment including High Altitude, Line of Control and Counter Insurgency / Terrorism Operations. The unit was awarded the General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Northern Command, Unit Appreciation for its commendable performance in Op RAKSHAK and Op VIJAY (J&K) during 1998-99.

During the short span of 35 years, personnel of the unit have been awarded one Vir Chakra, one AVSM, three Shaurya Chakras, 15 Sena Medals and three Vishist Seva Medals. The Battalion has arrived in New Delhi after a very successful deployment on the Line of Control in the Rajouri Sector of J&K and is responsible for conducting various ceremonial duties at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, India Gate, Red Fort and other important ceremonial functions organized by HQ Delhi Area.

After inspecting the Guard of Honour, the Prime Minister will proceed to the ramparts of the Red Fort where he will be greeted by Defence Minister, Minister of State for Defence, Chief of Army Staff General VK Singh, Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Nirmal Verma and Chief of Air Staff Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne. The GOC Delhi area will conduct the Prime Minister to the dais to unfurl the National Flag.

The unfurling of the tri-colour will synchronize with the 21 Gun Salute fired by the valiant gunners of the elite 299 Field Regiment. The ceremonial battery will be commanded by Maj Vijay Kumar Shah and the Gun Position Officer will be Sub (AIG) Gurappadu R.

The National Flag Guard comprising 32 men and one officer each from Army, Navy, Air Force and Delhi Police will present Rashtriya Salute at the time of unfurling of the National Flag by the Prime Minister. Maj Vikram Singh will be in command of this Inter-Services Guard and Police Guard. The Naval Contingent for the National Flag Guard will be commanded by Lt Cdr Aswin Sundaresh, the Army contingent by Captain Gaurav Dixit, Air Force contingent by Sq Ldr S Sridhar and Delhi Police contingent by Additional DCP P Kurunakaran.

The Army Band will play National Anthem when the National Guard presents ‘Rashtriya Salute’ while unfurling of the National Flag by the Prime Minister. All Service personnel in uniform will stand and salute. The Band will be commanded by Sub Maj Ganesh Dutt Pandey.

Two Army Officers, Lieutenant Nishant Vivek and Lieutenant Mohan R will be positioned on either side of the saluting dais for the PM for ADC duties. Captain Anil Kumar will assist the Prime Minister in unfurling of the National Flag.

The Army contingent for the National Flag Guard is from the 2nd Battalion of the Rajput Regiment. Raised on November 30, 1798 at Badgaon, the Battalion designation has been changed eight times since its inception. Now known as the 2nd Battalion of the Rajput Regiment (Kalichindi), it has bagged nine battle honours and one theatre honour and has taken part in 1947, 1962 and 1971 operations, where its officers and men have exhibited extraordinary courage and valour. The battalion has been awarded with one Mahaveer Chakra, ten Vir Chakra, three Sena Medal (Gallantry), two Param Vishist Sewa Medal, two Ati Vishist Sewa Medal, one Yudh Seva Medal, two Vishist Seva Medal and eleven Sena Medal.

The Battalion has the honour of having served in Sudan as part of the United Nation Peace Keeping Mission during 2007-08. The 2nd Battalion, Rajput Regiment also has the privilege of having given us the present Chief of Army Staff General VK Singh, who is also the Colonel of the Rajput Regiment.

After unfurling the National Flag, the Prime Minister will address the nation. After the Prime Minister’s address, school children and NCC Cadets will sing the National Anthem.

About seven hundred Cadets of the National Cadet Corps from the Delhi Directorate comprising Army, Navy and Air Force wings are participating in the flag hoisting ceremony this year. The cadets will also participate in the singing of patriotic songs along with the school children. Three thousand five hundred girl students from 40 government and government-aided schools under the Directorate of Education, National Capital Territory of Delhi will sing the National Anthem. They will also sing patriotic songs in different regional languages before the start of the Independence Day ceremony.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Technology Focus: US declassifies interesting stealth technology

A newly released photograph of Juliet Marine Systems' GHOST super-cavitating craft

The company release is appended below:

09:28 GMT, August 11, 2011 PORTSMOUTH, N.H. | Juliet Marine Systems, Inc. (JMS) announced Aug. 10 that the US Navy/USPTO have removed Secrecy Orders previously applied to GHOST. For the first time, Juliet Marine is able to release photographs of GHOST, the first super-cavitating craft, to the public. GHOST was designed and built by US Citizens for the US Navy at no cost to the government to protect US sailors, servicemen and servicewomen.

Development of the first ever super-cavitating craft, in many ways, is as difficult as breaking the sound barrier. GHOST is a combination aircraft/boat that has been designed to fly through an artificial underwater gaseous environment that creates 900 times less hull friction than water. GHOST technology adapts to manned or unmanned, surface or submerged applications.

Any Navy possessing GHOST technology could operate in international waters undetected and would have an overwhelming advantage against conventional ships. GHOST is specifically designed for Fleet Force Protection at its present size. GHOST technology is scalable and JMS is currently discussing a plan to build a larger Corvette-sized vessel (150 feet) by partnering with a large international defense company. The US Navy could reduce its Naval footprint and financial exposure by deploying a squadron of GHOSTs from Bahrain, which would free up larger assets, such as destroyers and cruisers, saving costs in manpower and maintenance. GHOST is ideal for piracy patrols and could be sea-based to provide protection from pirate attacks that cost our government an estimated $1.5 billion each year. The world-wide shipping industry could be provided with substantial fuel savings using JMS hull friction reduction super-cavitation.

A squadron of GHOSTs would not be detectable to seeking enemy ship radar and sensors. GHOST can carry thousands of pounds of weapons, including Mark 48 torpedoes, and would be virtually unstoppable. The GHOST platform and technology could reduce the need for LCS completely with the capability to travel long distances and conduct the same missions. GHOST could make LCS a defensible platform for combat - LCS is not currently rated for combat. Today, Iran has the capabilities to stop the US Navy from operating in the Straits of Hormuz, a critical passage for most of the oil our country uses.

The Navy compares GHOST to an attack helicopter with regard to its capabilities for force protection. GHOST can deliver forces to any beach location quickly and quietly with enough weapons to conduct a hot extraction. GHOST is designed to provide military game changing advantages for the USA.

Juliet Marine Systems, Inc. : Company or Organisation Portrait:

Juliet Marine Systems is located in the historic maritime community of Portsmouth, New Hampshire. This coastal community has prospered and grown as our nation's need for naval technology has increased over time. Across the Piscataqua River, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard overhauls, repairs and modernizes Los Angeles class submarines. Portsmouth Naval Shipyard provides the US Navy's nuclear powered submarine fleet with full service support for all multifaceted fleet requirements, from Revolutionary War times to today.

Since its early settlement, Portsmouth had been known for shipbuilding. Portsmouth was the site chosen for the construction and outfitting of three of the first twelve ships commissioned for the new Continental Navy. John Paul Jones, who came to the city to oversee the outfitting of two of these ships, is considered to be the father of the US Navy. The home he stayed in while working in Portsmouth still stands as a reminder to all of how important the actions and contributions of one visionary American were in creating the strongest and most capable Navy in the world today.

Friday, 12 August 2011

UK proposes building future warships with India

INS Satpura, pictured here during sea trials, will be commissioned into the Indian Navy next week. The frigate programme under which she was built, Project 17, has gone 260% over the sanctioned budget.

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 11th Aug 11

With defence ministry shipyards unable to meet the Indian Navy’s growing need for warships, New Delhi had no choice but to look to Russian shipyards. Now, with the UK looking to partner India to cut Britain’s warship building costs, one of India’s new private defence shipyards --- which have high-tech facilities but no experience in building large, complex warships --- could get the opportunity to build its first line of world-class frigates.

Business Standard has learned that a cash-strapped UK government has approached New Delhi to jointly design and build a next-generation frigate, designated the Global Combat Ship (GCS). While the UK had originally planned to build this alone (then designated the Type 26 frigate), shrinking defence budgets have forced it to seek international partners. And so India, along with other countries, including Brazil, has been invited into a consortium to design and build the GCS.

The British shipyard that will participate in the GCS project belongs to BAE Systems. The MoD in New Delhi will nominate an Indian shipyard. With the public sector shipyards unable to deliver even the existing orders on time, South Block has little choice but to turn to one of the three new private defence shipyards: L&T; Pipavav; or ABG Shipyard.

“There have been meetings at the government-to-government level. There are continued discussions with the Indian government. There has been clear interest from the Indian Navy. But nobody has made a commitment yet”, says Andrew Gallagher, President, BAE Systems India. The response of the other countries approached by the UK is not known.

Senior MoD officials say off the record that no decision is imminent on the British offer. But they admit that the offer is attractive, since it would provide a learning opportunity for one of India’s big new private sector shipyards to gain experience in building frigates.

The three private shipyards already have orders for small vessels for the navy and the coast guard, none larger than a few hundred tonnes. A frigate, which typically weighs between 5000-6500 tonnes and has complex electronic battle management systems, is far more difficult to design and build.

BAE Systems has described to Business Standard how Whitehall envisages the designing and building of the GCS. The countries that eventually form the consortium would join heads to frame broadly common specifications for the warship. Presently the GCS is planned as a flexi-role frigate; this means that each vessel could be optimised for any one of the three traditional frigate roles: anti-submarine; air-defence; or as a general-purpose frigate. To cater for these different roles and for the different requirements of the participating countries, the basic GCS design would have 80% commonality in design and components, with 20% remaining flexible.

While design responsibility would be shared between consortium members, each country would build its own frigates. This would protect jobs in the politically sensitive warship-building industry in the west. In the case of India, it would develop the capabilities of a fledgling shipyard.

“The Indian Navy has significant warship requirements, and so India would be extremely influential in such a partnership… The GCS commonality would generate operational benefits between friendly navies. And the additional benefit would be that a user, say the Indian Navy, could logistically support these frigates from ports in friendly foreign countries that operate the same ship”, says Gallagher, making the case for India’s participation.

For the force structure of Britain’s Royal Navy, the GCS, (or Type 26 frigate) is crucial. It survived the UK’s budget cuts of 2008 by paring down the Royal Navy’s order for the successful Type 45 destroyer. Last year, the Type 26 frigate survived the ruthless spending cuts imposed in Britain’s Strategic Defence and Security Review. But now, with Whitehall having concluded it cannot go it alone, the partnership of countries like India is essential.

So far, India has entered joint development projects only with Russia and Israel and those in the fields of aeronautics and missiles. But the MoD realises the need to expand warship building to the private sector. Defence shipyards, besides already running to capacity, are plagued by time and cost overruns.

Last week, responding to a question in parliament, Defence Minister AK Antony admitted, “The cost escalation in major indigenous warship building projects of the Navy, which are running behind schedule, has already been about 225% for Project-15A (destroyers), about 260% for Project-17 (frigates) and about 157% for Project-28 (anti-submarine corvettes).”

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

Remembering India’s capitulation on Tibet

Prime Minister Nehru, the current Dalai Lama, President Rajendra Prasad and the 10th Panchen Lama in 1956 at New Delhi at the 2500th anniversary of the birth of the Buddha

Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 9th Aug 11

An article in The New York Times last Saturday speculated that Beijing would try to legitimise its hand-selected (and therefore illegitimate) Panchen Lama, Gyaltsen Norbu, by sending him to study in the Labrang Monastery in Xiahe at the somewhat advanced age of 21. Xiahe is in China’s Gansu province, but in the Amdo region of traditional Tibet, which the communists carved up between five Chinese provinces bordering the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). Gyaltsen Norbu badly needs the credibility of Labrang Monastery; he was declared the 11th Panchen Lama by Chinese authorities, six months after they arrested the 11-year-old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who had been declared the 11th Panchen Lama by the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, following traditional Tibetan practice. Most Tibetans believe Gedhun Choekyi Nyima (often called “the youngest political prisoner in the world”) is the legitimate 11th Panchen Lama, while Gyaltsen Norbu is disparaged as “the Chinese Panchen Lama”.

This typically clumsy Chinese manoeuvre is a mere sideshow to the big story in Tibet, which is a six-month long security lockdown that has gone largely unreported in the world press. The lockdown, which has involved mass repression of Tibetans and hundreds of preventive arrests, was triggered by Beijing’s determination to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the “peaceful liberation of Tibet”, which took the form of the 17-Point Agreement (full form: Agreement of the Central People's Government and the Local Government of Tibet on Measures for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet).

The 17-Point Agreement, through which Lhasa bowed to Beijing’s sovereignty on 23rd May 1951, was India’s capitulation more than Tibet’s. After the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) marched into Tibet in October 1950 and destroyed the Tibetan army, India’s army chief, General (later Field Marshall) KM Cariappa declared that India could spare no more than a battalion (800 men) to block the Chinese invasion alongside the Tibetans. Then New Delhi refused to back Lhasa’s request for the United Nations to adopt a resolution against the Communist invasion. With global attention focused on the Korean War, and with India hoping to mediate between China and the US-led coalition, India feared that sponsoring Tibet’s reference to the UN would damage its leverage with China. And with Washington and London allowing New Delhi to take the lead on this issue (India, after all, was most affected by events in Tibet) China was allowed to subjugate Tibet unopposed.

New Delhi’s submissiveness obtained even less for India than it did for Tibet. The first words of the first clause of the 17-Point Agreement (“The Tibetan people shall unite and drive out imperialist aggressive forces from Tibet”) directly targeted India. New Delhi was the “imperialist” force that maintained --- continuing British practice since 1903 --- a military garrison in Gyantse, Tibet, across the Himalayas from Sikkim. Three years later India formalised its capitulation to Beijing. The Panchsheela Agreement of 1954, which recognised Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, bound India to withdraw its entire presence from Tibet.

Some of the ground ceded in that diplomatic blunder has been gradually clawed back by India. This began in 1959, when India granted refuge to the Dalai Lama and permitted the setting up of a Tibetan government-in-exile. Tens of thousands of Tibetan refugees that have trickled in over the years and continue to do so even today have set up a support base for an alternative government to the Beijing dominated one in Lhasa. Hundreds of Tibetan monks have been allowed to set up an ecclesiastical eco-system, central to Tibetan politico-religious belief, which parallels the Tibetan system that they left behind. In and around Bangalore and Mysore are the mirror images of the mighty monasteries --- Sera, Ganden and Drebung --- that were smashed during China’s “democratic reforms” and the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s. Not least, India retains a core of Tibetan fighting capability in the secretive Establishment 22, manned by Tibetan volunteers who would be more than happy to be unleashed against the Chinese in their homeland.

These steps, though, are just enough to annoy China without doing what would be necessary to seriously worry Beijing. India’s reluctance to flash its teeth, and to instead keep reassuring Beijing that the Tibetan exiles are on tight leash, does little to keep alive the sense of hope that Tibetans here need for continuing their fight. New Delhi’s willingness to carry out preventive arrests of Tibetans on the eve of Chinese visits creates apprehension that India can be pressured in the same way as Nepal, which China pressures into brutal police repression of Tibetan exiles.

Nor has Tibet’s global icon, the Dalai Lama, struck any strategic notes in his quest for international support. Brushed off by New Delhi like a distant relative who has stayed too long, and avoided by foreign leaders as a political minefield, His Holiness has been reduced to engagement with second-rung celebrities like Richard Gere and support from dodgy divas like Paris Hilton and Sharon Stone. His marginalisation has been carefully orchestrated by Beijing, which reacts ferociously whenever any head of government proposes meeting the Dalai Lama. And when anyone risks Beijing’s ire, as President Obama did in meeting the Dalai Lama last month, the conversation always begins with a careful public repudiation of Tibetan independence. Sadly, India, despite all the levers it holds in Tibet, follows that same cautious path.

The hopelessness that has seeped through the Tibetan exile community in India manifests itself in a growing rejection of the Dalai Lama’s “Middle Path”, which involves a non-violent engagement with Beijing about Tibetan autonomy rather than independence. India’s many angry Tibetan youngsters are held back for now by their enormous respect for the 14th Dalai Lama, but his passing on will create a problem for China that will be far more potent than the legitimacy of the 11th Panchen Lama. If New Delhi looks ahead and calibrates its response inventively, it may go some way towards recreating the leverage in Tibet that it lost in the 1950s.