Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Submarine missile test a step towards a 4000-kilometer missile

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 29th Jan 13

Even in the visually spectacular field of missile testing, the sight of a submarine-launched missile breaking through the surface is a breathtaking one. On Sunday, Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) scientists cheered excitedly as their indigenous, submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) leapt out of the water, its rocket motor fired soon after clearing the surface, and it soared off in a while plume to accurately strike a target 700 kilometres away.

To nobody’s surprise, the underwater launch went exactly according to plan. This missile, called in turn the K-15, the Shaurya, and now the B-05, had already been launched 10 times from under water and thrice from land. This exacting test schedule is designed for assurance, since this is a missile that cannot afford to fail. Until a better one is developed, this will be the backbone of India’s underwater nuclear deterrence.

That means that it will arm the INS Arihant, India’s first and only nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarine, or SSBN. Tipped with nuclear warheads, the K-15 will be launched from the Arihant only after a nuclear attack on India. New Delhi’s “no-first-use” nuclear policy prohibits the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons.

That means that India’s land-based and air-based nuclear weaponry, such as the Agni-series of missiles, might already have been destroyed by a pre-emptive enemy nuclear attack. The Arihant, and the B-05 missiles that it carries, are far more difficult to tackle, since they lurk underwater in complete secrecy. The underwater leg of the nuclear triad (land-launched, air-launched and submarine-launched weapons) has always been regarded as the most survivable. It is the ultimate currency of a nuclear exchange.

Going by what the DRDO said about its own test, the B-05 is well up to the task. “The Missile, developed by DRDO, was launched from a pontoon and was tested for the full range. It met all the mission objectives.  The parameters of the vehicle were monitored by radar all through the trajectory and terminal events took place exactly as envisaged,” said an MoD release on Sunday.

The B-05 (or K-15, or Shaurya) is no ordinary ballistic missile. Top DRDO scientists briefed Business Standard that it is not a ballistic missile at all. It could better be characterised as a hypersonic cruise missile, since it remains within the earth’s atmosphere.

A ballistic missile suffers from inherent disadvantages, since it is a relatively crude device, akin to a stone that is lobbed upwards, propelled by a rocket. After the rocket burns out, gravity comes into play, pulling the missile warhead down towards the target. Buffeted by wind and re-entry forces, accuracy is a problem; and, since the ballistic missile’s path is entirely predictable, shooting it down is relatively easy.

The Shaurya has overcome most of these issues. Its solid-fuel, two-stage rocket accelerates the missile to six times the speed of sound before it reaches an altitude of 40 kilometers (125,000 feet), after which it levels out and cruises towards the target, powered by its onboard fuel. In contrast to conventional ballistic missiles that cannot correct their course midway, the Shaurya is an intelligent missile. Onboard navigation computers kick in near the target, guiding the missile to the target and eliminating errors that inevitably creep in during its turbulent journey.

“I would say the Shaurya is a hybrid propulsion missile”, says Dr VK Saraswat, the DRDO chief, talking to Business Standard in 2010. “Like a ballistic missile, it is powered by solid fuel. And, like a cruise missile, it can guide itself right up to the target.”

Making the B-05 even more survivable is its ability to manoeuvre, following a twisting path to the target that makes it very difficult to shoot it down. In contrast, a ballistic missile is predictable; its trajectory gives away its target and its path to it.

The problem with the B-05 (or K-15, or Shaurya) remains its relatively short range of just 750 kilometres. While it could reach major cities in most countries if it were launched from just off the coast, that would necessitate a perilous submarine journey to the vicinity of the coastline. Therefore, the DRDO is also developing a longer-range missile, dubbed the K-4, which will have a range of almost 4000 kilometers. An Indian SSBN that is armed with the K-4 missile would be able to strike most likely targets from a safe patrol location in the Bay of Bengal.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

New military systems brighten Republic Day parade

by Ajai Shukla
New Delhi, Business Standard, 26th Jan 13

This year’s Republic Day parade in New Delhi, a traditional showcase for India’s defence arsenal, featured an unusually large number of brand new military systems. At the very start four brand new Mi-17V5 helicopters flew past carrying the national flag, and these were followed by several other systems that were making their debut before the public.

This is noteworthy, given the flak that the defence ministry (MoD) has taken for endemic delays in procuring equipment for modernising the ageing military. But now, after years of restructuring its procurement institutions and regulations, the MoD appears to be delivering much-needed weaponry to the three services.

The most eye-popping new system on display today was the Agni-5 ballistic missile, which can carry a thermo-nuclear warhead to a target 5000 kilometres away. The giant 17.5-metre long, 50-tonne, three-stage missile rolled down Rajpath (New Delhi’s presidential avenue) on a special launcher vehicle built by a private Indian company. The Agni-5, built by the Defence R&D Organisation (DRDO) was successfully tested last April. After 2-3 more successful tests it will join the Strategic Forces Command.

The DRDO’s success in missile development was reflected in the awards won by three top DRDO scientists. Dr VK Saraswat, the DRDO chief and Scientific Advisor to the Raksha Mantri, a key member of India’s missile development programmes for decades, was awarded the Padma Bhushan. So too was Dr Sivathanu Pillai, who oversees the Brahmos cruise missile programme, while Dr Avinash Chander, the DRDO’s chief controller of missile development, was awarded the Padma Shri.

The Indian Air Force (IAF) was relieved to display, even though it was a scaled-down model, the Pilatus PC-7 Mark II basic trainer aircraft that was recently procured from Swiss manufacturer, Pilatus, for Rs 1,800 crore. With the IAF’s basic trainer fleet of HPT-32 Deepak aircraft grounded after the deaths of 19 pilots in 17 crashes, this basic trainer aircraft will fill a crucial gap.

Also showcased on the IAF tableau was the C-17 Globemaster III, the purchase of which signaled that New Delhi was willing to pay big money for world-class systems. The IAF is paying Rs 22,800 crore for ten C-17s, making it the largest operator of this transport aircraft outside the US. Boeing will deliver the first five C-17s this year, with the next five coming in 2014. India is expected to place a follow-on order for this aircraft, which it needs for quickly reinforcing threatened sectors along the remote, Himalayan, northern border. The C-17 can deliver 74 tonnes of stores to a one-kilometre-long unpaved runway 4,500 kilometres away.

Another expensive, new aircraft featured on the IAF tableau was the AW-101 AgustaWestland helicopter. The MoD has bought twelve of these helicopters for Rs 3,550 crore for VVIP transportation. Delivery has begun, even as the Italian company is investigated in its home country after allegations of bribes paid to facilitate this and other contracts.

Another new IAF display was the Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft, which the DRDO is developing. These indigenous airborne radars, which are mounted on Embraer executive jets, will greatly enhance the IAF’s ability to monitor Indian airspace and control the aerial battle. The AEW&C will operate at one-eighth the cost of the Phalcon Airborne Warning & Control System (AWACS) that the IAF currently uses.

Besides the IAF, the Indian Navy showcased the warships it is inducting. Most prominent amongst these was the nuclear-propelled attack submarine, INS Chakra, which was displayed on the navy’s tableau. The 12,000-tonne Chakra, which India has leased from Russia for ten years for about Rs 4,800 crore, joined the eastern naval fleet in April. With virtually unlimited operating endurance, the Chakra greatly strengthens the navy’s ability to choke off enemy shipping at Indian Ocean choke points like the Strait of Malacca.

Also displayed on the naval tableau, but not yet delivered, was the aircraft carrier, INS Vikramaditya, formerly the Admiral Gorshkov in the Russian Navy. This jinxed vessel was bought in 2004 for Rs 5,000 crore and was to be delivered in 2008. By last year, the price was up to Rs 12,500 crore. Close to delivery, the vessel’s engine boilers failed during its final sea trials last September, leading to a delay of about a year. Now the MoD says the Vikramaditya “will join the naval fleet by the end of this year.”

 Meanwhile, Russia has begun delivering to the navy the 19 MiG-29K/KUB fighters that will fly from the Vikramaditya. A follow-on order for 26 more Mig-29K/KUB has been placed on Russia.

Next year’s Republic Day parade could feature two more crucial aircraft. Firstly, the navy’s P8I Multi-Role Maritime Aircraft (MMA) that will enhance “maritime domain awareness” over India’s 2.54 million square kilometres of Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). The second could be the Rafale medium multi-role combat aircraft, the purchase of which is currently being negotiated with Dassault of France. It is expected that negotiations will be concluded by mid-2013. While the first Rafale, which Dassault would deliver in flyaway condition, can only be expected by 2015, the IAF tableau would certainly feature the Rafale if the contract is signed this year.

The army’s presence, as always, mainly took the form of marching infantry contingents, a colourful and impressive sight. Given the army’s relatively sluggish procurement machinery, it had little to display by way of new equipment. There are plans for upgrading the soldier’s personal equipment, weaponry and clothing, but for now the Indian Army remains predominantly a light infantry force that consists mainly of lightly equipped foot soldiers that can operate across thousands of miles of high-altitude mountain border.

A very happy Republic Day... and some photos from the parade in New Delhi this morning

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Mapping the changes in Pakistan

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 22nd Jan 13

During my travels in Pakistan last week, I could hardly miss the stark difference between Indian and Pakistani reactions to the killing and mutilation of two Indian soldiers on the Line of Control (LoC) in J&K. Oblivious to Indian jingoism, the Pakistani press covered, minute-by-minute, the Anna Hazare style reality show that was Canada-based cleric Tahir ul-Qadri’s challenge to that country’s political establishment.

This is a metaphor for a changing Indo-Pak dynamic. For decades, India looked inward while Islamabad tom-tommed the looming India threat. Today as Pakistan, while lurching toward a form of democracy focuses mainly on its burgeoning internal challenges, India increasingly obsesses about the terrorist threat from across the border. This even as the tide of Pakistan-fomented violence recedes and Indian police and intelligence officials shift focus to disaffection within the country.

But the fortuitous outcome of Pakistan’s single-minded focus on Tahir ul-Qadri’s so-called Long March was that New Delhi’s tough response to brutality on the LoC went almost unnoticed in Pakistan, allowing Islamabad (which has little appetite for roiling the waters) to settle for a pro-forma response. This avoided an acid exchange of tit-for-tat statements that would have united Pakistan’s divided anti-India constituency.

But that was luck, not design. New Delhi, which views Pakistan in the context of an outdated and intellectually lazy narrative of implacable hostility, needs a clearer understanding of a rapidly changing Pakistani playfield. The most important transformation relates to Pakistan’s most powerful organisation, the army; and the evolving relationship between Pakistan’s five key institutions, viz the army, the polity, the judiciary, civil society and the media.

While the India threat remains a convenient drum for the Pakistan Army to beat, especially when New Delhi issues hawkish statements, General Headquarters (GHQ) in Rawalpindi is increasingly focused on the tribal areas of the north-western frontier, now called Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province. As Pakistani generals admit, their ill-conceived juggling act --- which involved fighting the radically anti-establishment Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (the “bad Taliban”), while backing the Afghanistan-focused Haqqani Network (the “good Taliban”) --- has become unsustainable because of close linkages amongst jihadis. Tanzeems in the tribal area now coordinate closely with groups like the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi and the Lashkar-e-Toiba that are embedded within the Punjab heartland.

With the tribal areas already aflame, the generals worry that Taliban success in Afghanistan would inevitably blow back into Pakistan, first into the tribal areas and from there into the heartland.

Hasan Askari Rizvi, a perceptive observer of the Pakistan Army, explains, “The army fears that Afghan Taliban success would embolden the Pakistani Taliban. Through their links with extremist groups in Punjab, this would raise terrorism, radicalization and extremism across Pakistan. Taliban success would also galvanize the Deobandi and Wahabi madrassas that do not today support the Taliban actively, like they did in the 1990s. The army believes that this would make the internal security situation in Pakistan unmanageable.”

This apprehension provides a crucial window for an Indo-Pakistan dialogue on Afghanistan. While both sides regard Afghanistan as a zero-sum game that has no winners, this gloomy outlook on a post-2014 Afghanistan could be brightened through a political initiative, preferably through back channels, to address both sides’ concerns. An agreement between New Delhi and Islamabad could backstop a mutually beneficial stabilization of Afghanistan.

Top generals who have retired from the Pakistan Army say it would be willing to support such a dialogue. Asked why GHQ did not signal its changed attitude, these officers retort that the Pakistani Army’s changing attitude towards India will never be reflected through public pronouncements, so New Delhi should not hold its breathe waiting for those. Instead India should scrutinise Islamabad’s recent public positions, which are broadly cleared by Rawalpindi.

The Pakistan army’s current low-key posture does not mean that it has ceased to be the country’s most powerful institution. But while it continues to exercise political influence, its methods are getting subtler because of the rise of balancing forces. These include an activist judiciary and a media that has given voice to a previously disempowered civil society. These alternative power centres make it difficult for the army to envision single-handedly managing Pakistan. 

Also deterring the Pakistani military from assuming more visible power is its understanding that the Pakistani economy is in trouble. GHQ possesses significant economic expertise, not only from managing its own considerable commercial empire but also because the generals study international thinking on Pakistan and interact reguarly with foreign experts. Currently, the economic mess can be blamed on the politicians; but not if the army assumed power.

And so the generals watched as Tahir ul-Qadri held the government to ransom, occupying an Islamabad square with 50,000 followers (he had promised four million). The fiery chief of the Tehrik Minhaj-ul-Quran had hoped to paralyse the capital, forcing the army to move in. But this hope was belied and the polity joined hands, forcing him to climb down and sign an agreement that had been offered to him a week earlier. This was a triumph for democracy, even though the politicians who sealed the deal were hardly men of spotless reputation. In earlier times, many of them would have asked the Pakistan Army to intervene.

Interestingly, even as Pakistan’s military dims its public profile, New Delhi has taken to citing the Indian Army as the basis for its policy positions. In choosing not to sign a Siachen Agreement (wisely, but that is another debate!), New Delhi holds up the army’s objections as a fig leaf. In hardening its condemnation of Pakistan after initially soft-pedalling the recent LoC incident, the government took its cue from the army. A disempowered Indian military probably basks in this show of concern, but it would do well to remember that in the aspects that really matter --- e.g. long-term strategic planning; equipment modernisation; and soldiers’ welfare --- the military remains out in the cold.

Monday, 21 January 2013

INS Saryu, the first Naval Offshore Patrol Vessel (NOPV), joins the Indian Navy

INS Saryu, the lead vessel of the indigenous Naval Offshore Patrol Vessel (NOPV) project, was inducted into the navy today. It was designed and built by Goa Shipyard Limited.

INS Saryu will help to meet the Indian Navy's growing requirements for ocean surveillance and patrolling. Its primary role will include EEZ surveillance, anti-piracy patrols, fleet support operations, maritime security to offshore assets and escort operations for high value assets.

Capable of carrying a helicopter (ALH) onboard, the ship’s weapon and sensor outfit includes a 76.2 mm super rapid gun mount with an electro-optic fire control system, two 30mm guns as close in weapon systems, new-generation navigational and early warning radars, chaff launchers for self protection and an integrated ESM system. The vessel is also equipped with two rigid inflatable fast motor boats.

INS Saryu is propelled by two SEMT diesel engines which are the largest engines of its type to be inducted in the Indian Navy, permitting speeds in excess of 25 knots. The ship's propulsion and power management  is controlled through a Remote Control System which incorporates an Automatic Power Management System. An integrated LAN system onboard along with a CCTV management system ensures optimal utilization of onboard equipment and better crew efficiency.

INS Saryu has a complement of 8 officers and 105 sailors.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Army claim of active LoC belied by J&K government figures

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 18th Jan 13

Sharply contradicting the army’s claim that Pakistan-based militancy remains active, and that cease-fire violations and infiltration take place as frequently as ever, the J&K government’s count of violence in Kashmir indicates that militancy has dramatically declined.

Government of J&K figures obtained by Business Standard for the last three years, i.e. 2010-2011, conclusively show that, on every important count, militancy has declined each year to half that of the previous year.

In 2010, the number of security force soldiers killed was 69; in 2011 that declined to 33; in 2012, it was 15. The number of civilians killed in 2010 was 164; in 2011, it was 40; and last year it was down to 24. The numbers of militants killed during those three years were 232, 100 and 72 respectively.

These figures are compiled by J&K government agencies on the basis of police records of each incident, which are by and large reliable. This declining trend is also corroborated by respected independent agencies like the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP). According to SATP records, there were a total of 375 fatalities (security forces, militants and civilians) in 2010; this went down to 183 fatalities in 2011; and to 117 dead in 2012.

[The SATP compiles its figures from media reports, while the J&K government compiles its figures from police station records.]

In contrast to this declining trend of violence, the army’s figures suggest a noticeable increase in militant activity on the Line of Control (LoC) over these three years, especially last year.

The Army Liaison Cell (ALC), which handles media relations for the army, tells Business Standard that there were 57 ceasefire violations in 2010; 61 in 2011; and 117 in 2012. This year, there have already been 14 violations. In 2010, 90 militants infiltrated into J&K across the LoC; this number declined to 55 in 2011; but then increased dramatically to 120 last year.

Ajai Sahni, a respected expert on militancy and terrorism from the Institute for Conflict Management, is deeply sceptical about the army’s regular claims that militant infiltration is on the rise.

“The army’s infiltration figures are simply not credible. One set of figures contradict another and, most noticeably, they are in sharp variance with the overall trend of declining violence. When militant infiltration increases, so too should killings, arrests and violent incidents. Militants don’t infiltrate for fun,” says Sahni.

The army explains the killing of two Indian soldiers near Poonch on Jan 8, and the mutilation of their bodies including the beheading of one, as an indicator of increased Pakistani activity on the LoC.

The J&K government figures also point to reduced militant activity on the LoC. The number of militant-initiated violent incidents has declined from 368 in 2010; to 195 in 2011; to just 124 last year. These incidents include grenade attacks, explosive devices, random firing, arms snatching and abduction.

Also pointing to declining militancy in J&K is the number of militants that surrendered to the government. In 2010, 20 militants laid down their arms and joined the mainstream; another 19 did so in 2011; while just one militant surrendered last year.

“There are just about 150 militants active in J&K now. Naturally, surrenders are going to decline,” says a senior J&K Police officer.


J&K Security situation
Year 2010 2011 2012
Militants killed 232 100 72
Militants/Suspects arrested 155 145 150
Civilians killed in Terrorist violence 47 31 15
Civilians killed while maintaining Law & Order 112 0 0
Civilians killed in incidents          (not related to terrorism) 5 9 9
Total civilians killed 164 40 24
PMF/SF killed 49 18 9
Police personnel killed 15 13 4
SPO killed 5 2 2
VDC killed 0 0 0
Total security force  killed 69 33 15
Soldiers killed in border firing 7 2 3
Grenade attacks 37 25 28
Blast / explosion 28 16 5
Arson 23 4 2
Rocket attacks 0 0 0
Random firing 74 52 33
Cross firing 191 89 50
Arms / snatching 2 1 5
Abduction 12 8 1
Hanging 1 0 0
Militant-related violent incidents 368 195 124
Other Acts
Posters 54 78 61
IEDs/Hand Grenade/ Exp.defused 43 47 26
Miscellaneous. etc. 23 20 9
Total 120 145 96
Militants surrendered 20 19 1

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Army chief: "Will retaliate at the time and place of choosing”

Army chief says family of Indian soldier beheaded on the LoC as important to him as the families of the 90 other soldiers who died this last year

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 15th Jan 13

Six days after two Indian soldiers were ambushed and mutilated on the Line of Control (LoC) with Pakistan, and just minutes before a senior Indian commander conveyed a strong protest to his Pakistani counterpart at a flag meeting near Poonch, in J&K, India’s army chief, General Bikram Singh ratcheted up the rhetoric, warning Pakistan that India would retaliate.

“We reserve the right to retaliate at the time and place of choosing,” said the army chief.

Gen Singh asserted that Indian troops would respond aggressively whenever provoked, instead of restraining themselves by the ceasefire, as in the past. “I wish to assure you that I have given very clear directions in this regard. I have told the Northern Army Commander that we must maintain and retain moral ascendancy (over Pakistani troops) at all costs.”

“We shall uphold the ceasefire as long as the adversary upholds it. But we shall not be passive when we are fired at. When we are fired at, when we are provoked, we will respond immediately. And also to heinous acts of this kind which were committed at Mendhar sector on the 8th,” he said.

Terming the killings and mutilation of Indian soldiers “a gruesome act, a most unpardonable act… that is against the very ethics of soldiering and professionalism,” General Bikram Singh warned that the beheading of a soldier’s body would impact on broader Indo-Pakistan relations.

“Militarily this operation is at the tactical level but it has got strategic nuances… and our concerns have been conveyed to the Government of Pakistan by our government,” he said.

Even while recognising the potential for tactical actions to spiral out of control, unleashing strategic consequences, Gen Singh paradoxically claimed his LoC commanders would respond as aggressively as they deemed fit to provocations by Pakistan.

“Operations would be undertaken as per the plans made at the theatre level. We would not be (vetting) these plans at the Army HQ, where we operate in the strategic arena… Tactical is left to the corps commanders, the div commanders.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), which manages the Indo-Pak dialogue process, is watching the rhetoric carefully. A senior diplomat, speaking off-the-record to Business Standard, said that the MEA understood the need to cater to outraged public sentiment, but was also concerned that the dialogue process could be destabilised.

The dialogue currently centres on issues that New Delhi holds important, i.e. trade and commerce, transit and travel and terrorism, with inconvenient subjects like Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek placed on the back burner. During nine years of relative peace on the LoC (the ceasefire came into effect on Dec 26, 2003), Pakistan has moved out some 70,000 soldiers for counter terrorist operations in the tribal areas of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.

Even though the last year has seen 117 ceasefire violations, many of them during 62 bids by militants to infiltrate across the LoC, the army chief termed the LoC as largely peaceful. Most violations took place in just two sectors: Uri and Poonch.

With firing along the LoC claiming over a hundred Indian soldiers’ lives each year before the ceasefire, at least a thousand soldiers’ lives have been notionally saved over nine years of ceasefire.

While citing the mutilation and beheading of Indian soldiers as the reason for his outrage, Gen Singh conceded that this was not the first such instance. He admitted that Pakistani soldiers had beheaded some soldiers of 20 Kumaon last year, and others from a Rajput battalion in 2011.

Rejecting media accounts that the Pakistani raid at Mendhar was in response to an Indian raid on a Pakistani post in Uri on Jan 6, the army chief alleged that the “pre-mediated and pre-planned” Pakistani attack was previously orchestrated, since it came within 50 hours after the alleged Indian raid in Uri.

“Such operations require time for planning… it requires reconnaissance. In other words, their (Pakistan’s) troops were poised for this operation. Therefore this entire information campaign, which was launched by them, which is based on lies, has to be understood in the correct perspective,” says General Singh.

When asked what might have motivated the Pakistan Army to launch such an operation, Gen Singh said that the army was still analysing the matter, but it could be because Pakistan wants the LoC to become active again; or to boost their status within Pakistan.

Monday, 14 January 2013

LoC killings: media drives hard line on Pakistan

by Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 14th Jan 13

Since the Jan 8 killing of two Indian soldiers and the mutilation of their bodies in a Pakistani attack on the Line of Control (LoC) in Jammu & Kashmir (J&K), the government has faced a growing clamour from hard-line nationalist sections of the media --- especially electronic media --- for “action” to be taken against Pakistan.

After a relatively restrained response in the immediate aftermath of the killings, the government --- apparently due to relentless media pressure --- shifted to a harder line against Pakistan. On Jan 8, first reports from the army’s Northern Command of the deaths of two Indian soldiers in a “ceasefire violation” in the Mendhar sector, had mentioned that the bodies had been mutilated. Although the press release made no mention of beheading, senior army officers quickly leaked the shocking news that one soldier had been beheaded and the head taken away. Only four days later, on Jan 12, was this news corroborated by a MoD spokesperson.

But on the evening of the incident (Jan 8), with a crop of retired generals baying on television for the army to be “unleashed” against Pakistan, Foreign Minister Salman Khursheed appeared on television, conveying serious concern but also restraint. The next morning, Pakistani High Commissioner Salman Bashir was summoned to the foreign ministry and conveyed India’s concern. Statements from Pakistan, including one by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, also sought to put a lid on the incident.

From New Delhi’s perspective this was unsurprising, given the government’s wish to prevent this incident, howsoever brutal, from derailing a ceasefire that had held for almost a decade, saving countless lives. MEA sources emphasise that the Indo-Pak dialogue should not be disturbed, since it is going India’s way. Discussions focus on the issues important to India (commercial ties, liberalisation of visa regime, terrorism, and people-to-people contacts); while there is lesser emphasis on the issues that New Delhi wanted to avoid (Kashmir, Siachen and Sir Creek).

Nor is the MoD keen to disturb the ceasefire; the Pakistan Army has shifted some 70,000 soldiers from the LoC to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province, for counter terrorist operations in the tribal areas. If India turned on the heat seriously, an insecure Pakistan Army could move troops back to the LoC. Indian intelligence agencies also worry that an aggressive Indian response could cause the Pakistan Army to mend fences quickly with the jehadi groups they are currently fighting.

But this logic has been ignored by large sections of the Indian media, which covered the incident in gory detail on the morning of Jan 9, even as there was deafening silence from the Pakistani press. After a full day of Pakistan-bashing on television, Jan 10 saw two Indian newspapers --- The Hindu; and Daily News and Analysis (DNA) --- prominently headline the news that the Pakistani attack in Mendhar was in response to an Indian attack in Uri the preceding Sunday, in which one Pakistani soldier was killed and another grievously injured in an attack on a Pakistani post. The article also stated that earlier Indian attacks on Pakistani posts on the LoC had been accompanied by the beheading of Pakistani soldiers.

For many Indians, this revelation somewhat changed the complexion of the debate. From a dastardly sneak attack that involved the barbaric chopping off of Indian heads, the Pakistani action was now retaliation; and its barbarity viewed in the context of a wider barbarism on the LoC. But large sections of the media simply ignored the report, maintaining a relentless drumbeat for action against Pakistan.

Like many Pakistani television guests, the Pakistan Army’s former Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Tariq Majid, emphatically reject allegations that Pakistani soldiers could have deliberately taken an Indian head. He argues that explosions during combat sometimes mutilate soldiers’ bodied.

“The perception in our official circles is that this (Indian allegation) is yet another manifestation of the blow-hot-blow-cold policy being pursued to keep Pakistan under pressure,” says General Majid.

Currently, even as the firing gradually abates on the LoC (on Jan 10, a second Pakistani soldier was killed in alleged firing by India), the government struggles to placate the nationalist media on the one hand; and keep the Indo-Pak peace process afloat on the other. This is proving difficult; the latest remark that the Indian media has seized upon is the statement on Saturday by IAF boss, Air Chief Marshal NAK Browne, that if “these violations continue to take place, then perhaps we may have to look at some other options for compliance.”

With the TV channels flashing this “Breaking News”, MoD spokespersons began calling in to clarify that the options that Browne referred to included “political and diplomatic options as well.”

The foreign minister has now gone on record to cool tempers, placing the issue in a larger context. In an interview on Saturday he said, “There's a much larger situation... the situation demands very responsible and sensible and moderate behaviour. We're not going to be pressurised by wild calls for revenge and reaction. We will do what is in the best interest of the country and peace, keeping in mind that there is a lot at stake.” 

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Ajai Shukla on Twitter: @ajaishukla

If you'd like to follow my personal views, 
Ajai Shukla's twitter handle is: @ajaishukla 

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

None so blind as those who will not see

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 8th Jan 13

Thanks to the defence ministry’s (MoD’s) outdated belief that it must fill the order book of Bharat Electronics Ltd (BEL), India’s military remains handicapped in night fighting against all its likely adversaries. Even jehadis infiltrating across the Line of Control into J&K have been found to have better night vision devices (NVDs) than the lavishly funded Indian Army that is tasked to intercept them. Worryingly, this disadvantage could continue. The reason: the MoD is set to tailor its future requirements of NVDs to what BEL can supply, rather than to what the army badly needs.

In a proposed MoD tender for 45,000 NVDs, an initial buy that would expand into contracts worth thousands of crore rupees, BEL is asking MoD officials to water down the specifications of the “third generation” NVDs that the army badly wants. While the army wants NVDs with a “Figure of Merit” (or FOM) rating of 1700 plus, BEL wants the specifications set at FOM 1400 plus. That is because BEL does not have the ability to deliver FOM 1700 plus NVDs in the quantities that the army wants.

Peering through an NVD with FOM 1400 plus, a soldier can see clearly at dusk or dawn, and enjoy acceptable vision with a quarter moon or brighter. FOM 1600 plus permits clear vision even in starlight, i.e. on a clear night with no moon. But the army wants FOM 1700 plus, which would allow soldiers to see clearly in pitch darkness, like on heavily clouded, moonless nights, or at night in a thick jungle. This, the army rightly points out, are the conditions that it often operates in.

In response to this demand, two Indian companies --- BEL and Tata Power’s Strategic Electronics Division (Tata Power SED) --- both confirmed to the MoD’s Services Capital Acquisition Plan Categorisation Committee (SCAPCC) that they could supply the army with NVDs with a rating of FOM 1700 plus. On BEL’s part that was apparently a bluff because now, with procurement being finalised, MoD officials are getting quiet requests from BEL to dilute the specifications so that it can remain in the race.

BEL’s apparent inability to supply NVDs with FOM 1700 plus comes despite the MoD having twice splashed taxpayer money on foreign night vision technology for the Bangalore-headquartered defence public sector undertaking (DPSU). In the 1990s, Dutch company Delft provided “second generation” technology, setting up a joint venture with BEL before walking out of the JV. As recently as 2010-11, the MoD handed more than Rs 100 crore to French company, Photonis, to give BEL “supergen” technology rated at FOM 1250 plus. Once again BEL failed to absorb this technology; it did not enhance its own technological capabilities in night vision; and it did not evolve the received technology into more advanced versions.

Today the MoD no longer has the option of spending more public money on a newer generation of technology for BEL. That is because state-of-the-art night vision technology is closely guarded. The United States government, which controls the world’s most advanced night vision technology that is developed by world leading companies like ITT and L-3, seldom allows the export of night vision technology better than FOM 1250 plus. Where Washington does permit export, e.g. for night vision goggles for Pakistan Army units that are fighting Taliban groups in the tribal areas along the Afghanistan border, there is strict End User Monitoring (EUM), in which US military officials physically inspect the equipment to ascertain that it has not been supplied onwards to some undesirable party. For a prickly New Delhi, EUM would be completely unacceptable.

Even BEL’s earlier supplier, Photonis, would now probably be unable to supply BEL with advanced night vision technology, since American companies are making a strong play for buying the French company, thereby making it subject to US export control laws. Reuters has reported that Photonis is on sale and US banker, Rothschild, which has enduring links with American defence companies, is advising on the sale.

Given BEL’s increasingly constrained situation, the army brass has strongly backed Tata Power SED for supplying the army with its next generation of night vision equipment. Senior generals who handle procurement say they are pleased at the way the Tata company has partnered with German company, Harder Digital, which will transfer technology to Tata Power SED for manufacturing and maintaining “third generation” FOM 1700 plus night vision equipment in India. The German government --- which has thrown off traditional restraints in emerging as a strong defence technology partner for India --- has already permitted Tata Power SED to import into India NVDs with a specification of FOM 1700 plus. Making the arrangement even more attractive, Berlin is not demanding End User Monitoring. The German authorities have indicated they would be content with an End User Certificate from New Delhi, certifying that the Indian military would not supply the NVDs onwards.

Tata Power SED has written to the MoD, detailing its readiness to supply the army with NVDs of the latest generation. Given that public tenders issued recently by Pakistan, and even Bangladesh, indicate that these countries are procuring “third generation” NVDs, it is difficult for South Block to dilute the specifications to cater for BEL’s lack of capability. For decades, while the MoD’s wayward child has fronted the import of foreign technology and sub-systems, passing them off as “indigenous”, the defence ministry (MoD) has continued to feed the DPSU with orders, ensuring healthy profit at the cost of defence readiness and self-reliance. But a changing MoD and a more assertive army may be unwilling to allow that any longer. 

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Defence ministry goes global in search for Kaveri partner

Working on a Kaveri prototype at GTRE, Bangalore

By Ajai Shukla
Gas Turbine Research Establishment, Bangalore
Business Standard, 4th Jan 13

The defence ministry (MoD) will no longer ask French aircraft engine builder Snecma to help in resurrecting the indigenous Kaveri jet engine, which has reached a dead end in development.

Instead major global aero engine manufacturers will compete in a global tender to partner the Gas Turbine Research Establishment (GTRE) --- the Bangalore-based DRDO engine laboratory --- in refining the Kaveri engine to the level where it can power the Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft (AMCA), an indigenous, fifth-generation fighter that is on the MoD’s long-term horizon.

“We are abandoning the plan for co-development with Snecma. We still need an overseas partner. But it will not be Snecma on a single-vendor basis. We will select our partner through competitive bidding,” says Dr CP Ramnarayanan, Director, GTRE.

Business Standard, on a visit to GTRE in Bangalore, was briefed that the Kaveri still delivered significantly less power than what a modern fighter requires. In flight-testing last year at the Gromov Flight Research Institute (GFRI) in Russia, the Kaveri’s maximum thrust (termed “wet thrust") was measured at 70.4 KiloNewtons (KN). High-performance fighters like the Tejas or the AMCA need engines that generate at least 90 KN of thrust.

“To develop a more powerful Kaveri engine quickly and to become self-reliant in engine design, we need a foreign partner who can bring in core technologies. Otherwise the next cycle of engine development could take another 15-20 years,” admits Ramnarayan frankly.

Developing a jet engine for a high-performance fighter is technologically more demanding than any other aircraft system. Only a handful of countries have been able to develop aircraft engines; China, like India, has not yet achieved success. The DRDO is struggling in developing the Nickel and Cobalt superalloys for the Kaveri’s turbine, where temperatures of 1,600 degrees Centigrade warp normal metals.

Shaping the alloys into engine parts is an equal challenge. GTRE has learned how to make “directionally solidified” turbine blades; but it has not mastered the making of “single-crystal blades”, which are now standard.

The process for selecting a partner that has these technologies is under way. A DRDO committee is identifying specifications for the engine. Based on these, a Request for Proposals (RfP) will be issued to engine makers.

Meanwhile, as already reported by Business Standard (“Kaveri engine to fly futuristic unmanned aircraft”, Dec 26, 2012) GTRE is developing a spin-off Kaveri engine that will propel India’s first unmanned bomber, termed the Unmanned Strike Air Vehicle (USAV). The Kaveri’s current “dry thrust” of 50 KN will suffice for the USAV.

The refined Kaveri engine that will come out of the foreign collaboration will be used for the futuristic AMCA, but not for the Tejas fighters of the Indian Air Force (IAF), which American engines will power. The first 40 Tejas Mark I are being built with the General Electric F-404IN engine, while the subsequent Tejas Mark II would have the more powerful GE F-414 engine.

“We were planning to re-engine first 40 Tejas fighters with the Kaveri. But now they will continue to fly with the F-404 engine,” says the GTRE director.

The DRDO has moved a paper to the MoD that strongly backs the Kaveri programme as the foundation of aero engine development in the country. The DRDO calculates that India’s aerospace requirements over the coming decade will include jet engines worth Rs 1,60,000 crore.

Major aero-engine development facilities are being set up in Chitradurga, where a 5,600-acre hub of strategic industry will house R&D, testing and production units of the DRDO, Department of Space (DoS) and Department of Atomic Energy (DAE). These will include an official altitude test facility for aero engines, which US defence major Boeing is providing as an offset in India’s Rs 22,800 crore ($4.12 billion) purchase of ten C-17 Globemaster III transport aircraft. So far, GTRE has had to do all its testing in Russia.