Friday, 30 June 2017

Army chief visits Sikkim amid clashes between Indian and Chinese patrols

Indian patrols in Tri-Junction area pre-empting Chinese road building (above: Chinese bunkers at nearby Nathu La pass)

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 30th Jun 17

A physical confrontation between Chinese and Indian troops on the Sikkim-Tibet border has grabbed headlines in India after television channels played out a video recording of soldiers pushing and jostling each other during a patrol clash on June 17.

Business Standard learns from a usually reliable source on the ground that the clash was unusually acrimonious.

Contacted for verification, army spokespersons declined to comment. The ministry of external affairs, too, at a briefing on Thursday on the prime minister’s impending visit to Israel and the G-20, declined to answer questions.

While pushing and shoving is routine during patrol confrontations between Indian and Chinese patrols, no shots have been exchanged since India and China signed an “Agreement on the Maintenance of Peace and Tranquillity on the Line of Actual Control (LAC)” in September 1993. The last fatal battle casualties on the LAC occurred in 1975, when four Assam Rifles jawans were shot dead by Chinese troops in the Mago area of Tawang, in Arunachal Pradesh.

The patrol clash took place in the disputed “Tri-junction” area, where the borders of India (Sikkim), Bhutan and China join together. This is the high-altitude Dolam Plateau (Sinicized to “Doklam” by the Chinese), on which all three countries have territory. The incident reportedly took place on the Doko La ridge in the area.

The Indian Army chief, General Bipin Rawat, visited Sikkim on Thursday to personally assess the situation.

The war of words gathered steam on Thursday, when the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) spokesperson, Colonel Wu Qian, was asked for a response to General Rawat’s statement earlier this month that India was “fully ready” for a simultaneous war against China and Pakistan.

Qian responded: “We hope [that] particular person in [the] Indian Army could learn from historical lessons and stop clamouring for war.”

For India, the Sikkim border, including the Tri-junction, is extremely sensitive since a Chinese breakthrough here could reach, and block, the Siliguri corridor – a narrow, 27-kilometres wide strip of Indian territory that connects the entire north east with the rest of India. Chinese control over the Siliguri corridor could cut off the entire northeast.

To prevent this, India guards Sikkim heavily with two mountain divisions. A third division remains ready in wartime to guard Bhutan’s western border with China, so that Chinese troops cannot outflank Sikkim’s defences through Bhutan.

If China extracts more territory in the Tri-junction area, that would shorten the distance to Siliguri. It would also widen the mouth of the Chumbi Valley – a dagger-shaped salient of Chinese territory that protrudes southwards.

While the Indian army has safeguarded the Sikkim border, even through a major firefight in nearby Nathu La in1967, Chinese forces have systematically encroached into Bhutanese territory. This is done through a time-tested method of first sending in yak graziers with their herds, building temporary shelters, then military bunkers, and then citing those to claim ownership over the entire areas. Finally, a road is built to that area.

While the Indian army has remained silent over the recent incident, Beijing has been unusually vocal. On Monday, its foreign ministry spokesperson, while announcing the suspension of the Kailash-Mansarovar Yatra pilgrimage through nearby Nathu La, revealed: “Recently, the Indian border troops crossed the China-India boundary at the Sikkim section and entered the Chinese territory, obstructing Chinese border troops' normal activities in Doklam. The Chinese side has taken proportionate measures in response.”

On Tuesday, Beijing put out a detailed rationale for its claim over Dolam, basing it on the “Convention Between Great Britain and China Relating to Sikkim and Tibet”, dated 1890. Beijing claimed that India had accepted this rationale during the Special Representatives Dialogue.

On Wednesday, the Chinese foreign ministry noted that this clash was substantially different from clashes elsewhere on the LAC, in that the Sikkim boundary was clearly delineated. He said: “The Indian border troops overstepped the mutually recognized boundary line at the Sikkim section and crossed into the Chinese territory. That is essentially different from previous fictions (frictions) between the two troops (sic) in the border areas where the boundary is yet to be delimited.”

On Wednesday, Bhutan entered the fray. Since it does not have diplomatic relations with China, Bhutan’s envoy to India, Vetsop Namgyel, declared: “Doklam is a disputed territory and Bhutan has a written agreement with China that, pending the final resolution of the boundary issue, peace and tranquillity should be maintained in the area.”

China, which has been long irked by Bhutan’s closeness to India on matters relating to China, responded “The Donglang area belonged to China since ancient times and it doesn't belong to Bhutan. India wants to raise an issue with this part. I should say it doesn't belong to Bhutan, nor it belongs to India.”

Thursday, 29 June 2017

Compared to three Modi-Obama summits, Modi-Trump moves ties forward in several fields

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 29th June 17

Compared to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s three substantive summit meetings with former president Barack Obama between 2014-16, there are notable departures in the joint statement that was issued on Monday after the Indian PM met President Donald Trump.

The departures relate to the prioritisation of strategic relations; US support for India on China pushing an economic corridor through Jammu & Kashmir (J&K); naming Pakistan as a source of terror; and an Indian role in Afghanistan.

(Text continues after comparison chart)

Sept 2014, Washington
Jan 2015, New Delhi
Jun 2016, Washington
Jun 2017 in Washington
Chalein Saath Saath; (Forward Together We Go)
Sanjha Prayas, Sab ka Vikas; (Shared Effort, Progress for All)
Enduring Global Partners in the 21st Century
US and India – Prosperity through Partnership
US-India Vision Statement
1.  New Delhi Declaration of Friendship
2.  Joint Strategic Vision for Asia Pacific
Joint statement after Modi met Obama for “Working Visit”
Joint statement after Modi met Trump
Topic order in Joint Statement (which suggests order of priorities)
1. Economic growth
2. Energy and climate change
3. Defence and homeland security
4. High tech, space and health cooperation
5. Global issues and regional consultations.

1.  Economic growth
2.  Defence and homeland security
3. Clean energy
4. Climate change
5. Global issues and regional consultations.
1.  Climate change and clean energy
2.  Clean energy finance
3.  Strengthening global non-proliferation
4. Land, Maritime, Air, Space and cyber security.
5.  Terrorism and violent extremism.
6. Economics and trade.
7. Technology & health
8. Global leadership.
9.  People-to-people ties.
1. Partnership in the Indo-Pacific region.
2. Terrorism cooperation.
3. Strategic convergence.
4. Free and fair trade.

Defence & homeland security and maritime cooperation
1. Treat each other like “their closest partners.
2. Will renew for 10 years the “Framework Agreement for Defence”.
3. US mine blast-resistant vehicles to India
1. Welcomed Pentagon’s rapid reaction team to focus on DTTI*.
2. Need for defence ties to focus on tech cooperation, co-production, co-development
3. Welcomed intensified coop in maritime, as reflected in the 2015 Defence Framework Agreement
4. To enhance maritime coop further.
1. Cooperation roadmap made out under Defence Framework Agreement.
2. Welcomed inaugural Maritime Security Talks.
3. Agreement for sharing “White Shipping” data.
4. Welcomed finalisation of Logistics Exchange Agreement (LEMOA).
5. To explore agreements that will further expand defence cooperation.
6. US recognised India as “Major Defence Partner”.
7. Finalised agreement on aircraft carrier technology cooperation.

1. Deepen cooperation based on US designation of India as a “major defence partner”.
2. US offered India sale of Sea Guardian unmanned aerial systems.
3. Enhance implementation of the “White Shipping” data sharing arrangement.
4. Trump welcomed Modi’s invitation for US to join Indian Ocean Naval Symposium.
Asian security architecture
1. Need for freedom of navigation and over flight in the region, especially in the South China Sea.
2. Resolution of territorial and maritime disputes through peaceful means.
3.  Explore upgrading of trilateral talks with Japan to Foreign Minister level.
1. “Joint Strategic Vision”: importance of maritime security and freedom of navigation and over flight throughout the region, especially in the South China Sea.
2. Resolution of territorial and maritime disputes through peaceful means.
3. Committed to strengthening the East Asia Summit on 10th anniversary.
4. Cited the US-Japan-India dialogue to urge projects of common interest.
No mention of Indo-Pacific or Asian security.
1. Close partnership between the US and India central to peace and stability in Indo-Pacific.
2.  Called on regional countries to adhere to set of common principles: (a) Freedom of navigation, overflight and commerce.
(b) Resolve disputes peacefully.

Joint military training
To upgrade the Malabar exercise
Reiterated commitment to upgrade naval Ex Malabar
Welcomed enhanced mil-to-mil cooperation, especially in disaster relief operations.
1. Noting importance of Malabar naval exercise in July, agreed to expand scope.
2. Agreed to explore new training exercises.
Counter-terrorism cooperation
1. Concern over terrorism, mentions ISIL
2. Dismantle safe havens for terrorist and criminal networks.
3. Disrupt all networks such as Al Qaeda, LeT, JeM, D-Company, and Haqqanis
4. Pakistan to bring to justice Mumbai 2008 perpetrators.
5. Identify modalities for terrorist watch list exchange
1. US-India partnership a defining counterterrorism relationship for the 21st century.
2. Zero tolerance of threat posed by groups like Al Qaida and ISIL.
3. Need for joint and concerted efforts to disrupt entities such as LeT, JeM, D Company and Haqqani Network.
4. Pakistan to bring to justice Mumbai 2008 perpetrators.
5. Develop action plan through the Homeland Security Dialogue and Joint Working Group on Counter Terrorism.
6. Deepen collaboration on UN terrorist designations
1. Deepening cooperation based on September 2015 US-India Joint Declaration on Combating Terrorism.
2. Strengthen cooperation against extremist groups like Al-Qaida, ISIL, JeM, LeT, D Company and their affiliates.
3. Pakistan to bring to justice perpetrators of Mumbai 2008 and Pathankote 2016 attacks.
4.  Identify new areas of collaboration through the Counterterrorism Joint Working Group.
4. Finalised arrangement to share terrorist screening information.
 5. Affirmed support for UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
1. Calling terrorism a “global scourge”, the statement resolved that US and India will fight it together.
2. Strengthen cooperation against terrorist groups like Al-Qaida, ISIS, JeM, LeT, D-Company, and their affiliates.
3. India appreciated US designation of the Hizb-ul-Mujahideen leader as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist (SDGT).
4. Called on Pakistan to “ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries.”
5. Further called on Pakistan to “bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai, Pathankot, and other cross-border terrorist attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups.”
6.  Affirmed support for UN Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism.
1. Importance of both strategic partnerships with Afghanistan.
2. Continue consultations and cooperation on the future of Afghanistan.
1. Promote a secure, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan.
2. Reaffirmed the importance of both strategic partnerships with Afghanistan.
3. Would continue high-level consultations on Afghanistan in the near future.

No mention of Afghanistan.
1. Trump welcomed India’s role in Afghanistan’s stability, prosperity, and security. 2. Reaffirmed the importance of both strategic partnerships with Afghanistan.
3. Committed to continue close consultations and cooperation on future of Afghanistan.

Regional connectivity
Must accelerate infrastructure connectivity and develop corridors for regional economic integration.
Specifically cited need to stabilise Afghanistan, through transport and economic connectivity between South and Central Asia.

No mention of regional connectivity
US supports construction of regional connectivity “while ensuring respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, rule of law and environment.”

North Korea
Concerns over North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Urged North Korea to denuclearize.
Concerns over North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. Urged North Korea to denuclearize.

No mention of North Korea
1. Strongly condemned “continued provocations” by North Korea, which poses “a grave threat to regional security and global peace.”
2. Pledged to together counter North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction.
3. Will hold accountable “all parties that support these programs”. (China)
International regimes
Work towards India’s phased entry into the NSG, MTCR, the Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group.
Work towards India’s phased entry into the NSG, MTCR, the Wassenaar Arrangement and Australia Group.
1.  Looked forward to India’s imminent MTCR entry.
2. The US called on NSG members to support India when its membership application comes up at the NSG Plenary in June.
3. US also re-affirmed support for India’s early membership of the Australia Group and Wassenaar Arrangement.
1. US strongly supported India’s early membership in NSG, Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Group.
2. Reaffirmed US support for India’s permanent membership of a reformed UN Security Council.

*  DTTI: Defence Trade and Technology Initiative 

In Modi’s three meetings with Obama, the joint statements – which can be assumed to mention higher priorities ahead of lesser preoccupations – all led off with economic growth and clean energy. Lower priority was accorded to defence, homeland security and terrorism.

In Monday’s joint statement the order of priority was: partnership in the Indo-Pacific, terrorism cooperation, strategic cooperation, free and fair trade and, finally, energy.

While the Indo-Pacific partnership was dealt with at some length, and the statement called on “regional countries” to uphold freedom of navigation, it avoided mention of either China or the South China Sea. This would not be the first time such a reference was dropped; the June 2016 joint statement too had no such mention.

Shashank Joshi of the Royal United Service Institute assesses: “The Trump administration has walked a fine line on the issue, to avoid jeopardising Chinese support over North Korea.”

Previous joint statements unreservedly back infrastructure creation for Asian regional connectivity, but Trump has backed India’s opposition to China’s landmark Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), especially the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Hewing to New Delhi’s line that the CPEC violates India’s sovereignty over Gilgit-Baltistan, which is a part of J&K, the joint statement supports regional connectivity “while ensuring respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity, rule of law and environment.”

On terrorism, the US has supported India with a clearly tougher line. Leading up to the summit, the US State Department designated Hizbul-Mujahideen chief, Syed Salahuddin a Specially Designated Global Terrorist. Monday’s joint statement saw the unprecedented mention of “cross-border terrorist attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups.”

Monday also saw Washington supporting an Indian role in Afghanistan far more unequivocally than in previous summits. Earlier, Washington pandered to Islamabad’s concerns, which feared that New Delhi was “outflanking” it in Kabul. Pakistan, therefore, arm-twisted Washington into keeping India away, dangling the carrot of its influence over the Taliban and Haqqani Network that were fighting coalition forces in Afghanistan.

New Delhi, in turn, allowed in far stronger language on North Korea, which currently is one of Trump’s top priorities. In April, the Modi government had enforced sanctions on North Korea, as its second-largest trading partner. But, here too, the joint statement took a shot at China, noting that “all parties that support these (North Korean) programs” would be held accountable.

In defence, the statement spoke of deepening cooperation between the “major defence partners”, and the unprecedented US offer of Sea Guardian unmanned aerial systems. The agreement for sharing “White Shipping” data, which relates to commercial liners plying the Indian Ocean, was proposed to be expanded.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Trump-Modi “joint statement” strongly affirms US-India security ties

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 27th Jun 17

Leading into Monday’s meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump, both sides had conspicuously pitched expectations low, portraying it as a “getting-to-know-each-other” summit.

Surprising many, the joint statement, issued by New Delhi and Washington after one-on-one and delegation level talks, turned out to be an assertive endorsement of shared security interests and an expanding strategic partnership.

Whether on cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, on combating Pakistan-backed terrorism, regional issues like Afghanistan and North Korea or US-Indian defence sales, there was convergence enough to compensate for the mild divergences in trade and commerce.

The Indo-Pacific

Trump’s blow-hot-blow-cold vacillation on China had observers anticipating a downgrade in Washington’s formerly vigorous cultivation of New Delhi as a strategic hedge to China. However, that was put to rest in the very first section of the joint statement.

Echoing the “Joint Strategic Vision” spelt out during Barack Obama’s January 2015 visit to New Delhi, the document “agreed to take further measures to strengthen their partnership.” This was outlined in the statement as a set of principles that regional countries were urged to adopt.

These included the Chinese bugbears of “respecting freedom of navigation, overflight, and commerce throughout the region”; and a call to nations “to resolve territorial and maritime disputes peacefully and in accordance with international law.”

This is directed at Beijing, and its aggressive assertion of claims over territory and waters in the South and East China Seas. Beijing has also rejected the ruling of an international court of arbitration that rejected China’s “historical claim” over most of the South China Sea, as expressed by its so-called “Nine Dash Line”.

Former White House staffer, Josh White, has noted that a joint statement’s structure is designed to send a broader message. He tweets: “In this case, leading off with a section on the Indo-Pacific sends a signal that the emphasis embodied in the [Joint Strategic Vision 2015] is still operative…”

In another broadside directed at Beijing’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the joint statement supports the creation of infrastructure for boosting regional economic connectivity, but only “while ensuring respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, the rule of law, and the environment.”

India has ostentatiously rejected the BRI on the grounds that its China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) violates India’s territorial integrity, being unilaterally routed through Gilgit-Baltistan, which India claims as part of Jammu & Kashmir.

Pakistan-backed terrorism

Another Indian gain is the strong statement against terrorism, especially that originating in Pakistan: “The leaders called on Pakistan to ensure that its territory is not used to launch terrorist attacks on other countries. They further called on Pakistan to expeditiously bring to justice the perpetrators of the 26/11 Mumbai, Pathankot, and other cross-border terrorist attacks perpetrated by Pakistan-based groups.”

The joint statement resolves to cooperate in combating “terrorist threats from groups including Al-Qa’ida, ISIS [Islamic State of Iraq and Syria], Jaish-e-Mohammad, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, D-Company [Dawood Ibrahim’s group], and their affiliates.”

Leading into the summit, there were Indian apprehensions that Trump’s anti-terrorist preoccupations were restricted to West Asian groups like ISIS. As it turned out, Trump ticked all the Indian boxes, calling out Pakistan unequivocally.

Also gratifying to India was the US administration’s designation, just prior to the summit, of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen chief, Syed Salahuddin, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.

China, in contrast, continues to block India’s bid to place Azhar Masood, the Pakistan-based Jaish-e-Mohammed chief, on a UN terrorist threat.

In last night’s US-India statement, “the leaders welcomed a new consultation mechanism on domestic and international terrorist designations listing proposals.”

While Obama had been reluctant to do this, Trump agreed to affirming “support for a U.N. Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism that will advance and strengthen the framework for global cooperation and reinforce the message that no cause or grievance justifies terrorism.”

“Major defence partnership”

Putting meat on the bones of America’s recent designation of India as a “major defence partner”, the joint statement equated India with the closest US allies. “The United States and India look forward to working together on advanced defence equipment and technology at a level commensurate with that of the closest allies and partners of the United States.”

As expected, the joint statement noted that the US has offered India the sale of Sea Guardian Unmanned Aerial Systems, to “enhance India’s capabilities and promote shared security interests.” The over $2 billion sale proposed is for 22 Guardian systems.

Also in the delivery pipeline are four Boeing P-8I Poseidon maritime aircraft for a billion dollars; about $3 billion worth of helicopters – including 22 AH-64E Apache attack helicopters and 15 CH-47F Chinook heavy lifters – and a $700 million order for 145 M-777 ultra-light howitzers.

Separately, on Monday, the US Congress was notified about a proposed sale to India of a C-17 Globemaster III heavy lift transport aircraft for an estimated $366 million.

As Business Standard had revealed (“No F-16 deal during Modi’s visit to US), the proposal by Lockheed Martin to transfer its production line from the US to build the F-16 in India was discussed, but not included in the joint statement.

Votaries of the F-16 would take heart from Modi’s remarks to the media, in which he said: “President Trump and I have also spoken about strengthening bilateral defence technology and our trade and manufacturing partnership, which we believe will be mutually beneficial to us.”

While the two countries’ navies already exercise together in the annual Malabar exercise, which will be held next month, the US could also be joining the biannual Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS), which is restricted to littoral countries.

With India already admitted to the Missile Technology Control Regime, the joint statement expressed strong support for “early membership” to the other three global proliferation regimes – the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the Wassenaar Arrangement, and the Australia Group.

Trump also reaffirmed American support “for India’s permanent membership on a reformed U.N. Security Council.”

Monday, 26 June 2017

India, US to set agenda for “major defence partnership”

India wanted armed Predator drone (pictured), but US is offering unarmed Guardian maritime drone instead

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 26th Jun 17

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi meets US President Donald Trump for the first time on Monday in Washington DC, healthy defence ties between the two countries are expected to buoy the discussions.

Key issues that will be discussed include: Operationalizing India’s unique status as a “major defence partner” of America; the proposed $2 billion sale of Guardian remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs) to India; and negotiation of a security agreement that would allow the US to import sensitive communications equipment to India.

Officials on both sides are playing down expectations of concrete outcomes, given the unpredictability of Trump and Modi. “I don’t see their meeting as being driven by the need for ‘deliverables’. This will be the first time they sit down face-to-face, and they would do well to establish a personal bond that will help them work cooperatively.

As Business Standard reported on Saturday (“No F-16 deal during PM Modi's visit to US”) there would be no forward movement on the proposal from US aerospace major, Lockheed Martin, to build F-16 Block 70 fighter aircraft in India. Instead, as part of a multi-vendor procurement, India’s defence ministry will process the F-16 offer according to the Defence Procurement Procedure of 2016.

Major defence partner

Last December, in the twilight of the Barack Obama administration, the US Congress passed an amendment titled, “Enhancing Defense and Security Cooperation with India”, to the National Defense Authorization Act of 2017 (NDAA) – an annual bill that allocates funding to the US military.

The India amendment, which forms Section 1292 of the NDAA, designates India a “major defence partner” of the US, and requires US secretaries of defence and state to designate an official to manage Indo-US cooperation. All US administrations must appoint an official who will report 6-monthly to Congress on the defence relationship.

In April, US National Security Advisor, General HR McMaster, affirmed the new designation when he visited New Delhi. How Trump and Modi operationalize the “major defence partnership” will be carefully watched, as that would signal the real content of the relationship.

There is potential for conflict, given Trump concerns like jobs and visas. Yet, India’s need for defence modernisation could also create more jobs in America. For example, moving the F-16 integration line to India to build 100-200 fighters could allow US workers to continue making systems, avionics, engines and other parts in America.

Sale of Guardian drones

Washington and New Delhi are discussing the sale of 22 Guardian RPVs to India, which both sides could use to demonstrate the value of the partnership.

US officials point out that these RPVs are “Category 1” systems under the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR), for the export of which member countries must assume “presumption of denial”, except on pressing national security grounds.

“An offer of a ‘Category 1’ RPV –exported so far only to US allies engaged in combat operations of critical national security importance – would demonstrate that India is being provided unprecedented technology under ‘major defence partner’ status”, says Benjamin Schwartz of the US-India Business Council (USIBC).

The MTCR tightly controls Category 1 systems because of their ability to deliver nuclear weapons.

America has sold such RPVs to western allies, including France, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and the UK. However, India’s procurement of the Guardian would be the first sale of an RPV of this category outside the NATO framework.

The Guardian, built by General Atomics, is the naval version of the legendary Predator B armed drone (also termed the MQ-9 Reaper), with which the US has killed terrorists in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Yemen. India had asked for the armed Predator drone. However, Washington turned down that request and instead offered the unarmed Guardian, which performs maritime surveillance.

The Guardian, like the Reaper, cruises at 300 kilometres per hour at 50,000 feet, and flies 14-hour missions during which it can travel to and observe oceanic areas up to 1,800 kilometres from base. It is monitored and controlled remotely from a ground control room, which exchanges imagery in real time with the RPV, over a two-way data link.

Says a US official anonymously: “This offer represents an outstretched arm to India by its friends in Washington. If New Delhi were to reject this, it would severely weaken pro-India voices within the US government and do real damage to the defence relationship.”

The New York Times reports that India has asked the Pentagon for drone sales thrice in the past year. That led to pro-India senators John Cornyn and Mark Warner writing to urge Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to clear the sale, which “would advance U.S. national security interests and protect U.S. jobs.”


Since 2005, the US has urged India to sign an agreement called Communications Interoperability and Security Memorandum of Agreement (CISMOA), which lays down stringent safeguards for sensitive radio equipment provided by America.

India’s refusal has caused its military to get key platforms like the C-130J transporter and the P-8I maritime surveillance aircraft with CISMOA-protected communications kit replaced by lower-grade, less secure, commercially-available equipment.

India objects to some safeguards, like inspections of CISMOA-protected equipment on Indian military bases. As negotiations have progressed, Washington has agreed to rename the agreement COMCASA --- or Communications Compatibility And Security Agreement --- to allow India a country-specific agreement, different from what the US Department of Defense (DoD, or Pentagon) has signed with dozens of other countries.

Pentagon sources say their draft of the COMCASA is now with New Delhi, but there is no telling when the defence ministry will act on it.

“During the trilateral US-India-Japan Malabar exercise in July, we have to come up with customised solutions for intercommunications. This happens also in disaster relief situations. After the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, Indian C-17 Globemaster III aircraft flying aid to Nepal could not communicate with US Air Force C-17s operating there because they had no CISMOA-protected radio sets.

Neither side is holding its breath on CISMOA/COMCASA. Modi and Trump could agree on the need to expedite negotiations, but an actual agreement is unlikely. 

Friday, 23 June 2017

No F-16 deal during Modi’s visit to US

By Ajai Shukla
Business Standard, 24th Jun 17

There will be no announcement of the sale of F-16 fighters to the Indian Air Force, or even of Indian interest in the F-16, during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official visit to Washington DC on Sunday and Monday.

Contrary to widespread media speculation about an impending announcement of a purchase by India of F-16 Block 70 fighters, and the transfer to India of the integration line in Fort Worth, Texas, New Delhi has told Washington its decision would follow a careful selection procedure, say reliable government sources.

New Delhi has even turned down Washington’s proposal to mention the possible “Make in India” of F-16 fighters in the joint statement that will follow Modi’s meeting on Monday with President Donald Trump in the US capital.

“We are not expecting any announcements [related to the sale of F-16s] in the next six months”, says an official who is aware of US-India negotiations.

Officials in both capitals understand that New Delhi is reluctant to commit itself to either side of a competitive procurement for single-engine fighters, which is still at a preliminary stage. Last October, the Indian Air Force (IAF) sent out a Request for Information (RFI) to global aerospace manufacturers, but has not yet followed that up with a formal tender.

Senior officials in New Delhi indicate that, besides the F-16 Block 70 offered by Lockheed Martin, Saab of Sweden has offered India its new Gripen E fighter, which made its debut flight on June 15.

Fuelling speculation over Saab’s continued relevance in the fighter procurement, Modi phoned up his Swedish counterpart, Stefan Lofven on Wednesday morning. Following what he lauded as a “good discussion”, Modi tweeted: “I deeply appreciate Sweden’s support for Make in India.”

Lockheed Martin has waged an aggressive, American style campaign to push the F-16 -- employing media briefings, sponsoring think tank papers and, at the ongoing Paris Air Show, announcing a joint venture with Tata Advanced Systems Ltd (TASL) to build the F-16 in India on an integration line transferred from Forth Worth, Texas.

At the Paris Air Show on June 20, Lockheed Martin’s vice president, Orlando Carvalho, told DefenseNews that the Trump administration, notwithstanding its commitment to keeping jobs in America, was not opposed to transferring F-16 production to India. Carvalho stated: “We’ve briefed various members of the administration on the program, on what that program would mean for the United States and what it means for India, and throughout all of the briefings and discussions that we’ve done, we haven’t seen any resistance to the program by the administration.”

A key reason for this is that Lockheed Martin does not envisage transferring more than a few hundred jobs to India, of workers involved in final assembly of the F-16 at Fort Worth. Meanwhile, some 6,000 American jobs connected with producing assemblies and sub-assemblies for the F-16 would get a lease of life. Without an Indian order, these jobs would be lost, since there are no other buyers for the F-16.

While Lockheed Martin is pitching to India the opportunity to build F-16s for all future purchases worldwide, DefenseNews quotes Heidi Grant, deputy under secretary of the US Air Force, as stating that interest from potential F-16 buyers was directed mainly towards the used F-16s of countries that were upgrading their fleet to the F-35 Lightning II.

If no new buyer emerges for the F-16, a line transferred from Texas to India would have to shut down after building India’s requirement.

While Lockheed Martin has planned to transfer its existing line to India, Saab has offered to set up a brand new line, while its existing line in Linkoping, Sweden, continues to build the Gripen E for the Swedish and Brazilian air forces.

Saab has sweetened its offer by undertaking to help India in developing and manufacturing the Tejas Mark 1A – an improved version of the current indigenous fighter – and also helping in the development of India’s planned next-generation Advanced Medium Combat Aircraft.

India’s proposed procurement of single-engine fighters stems from the failure of a decade-long competitive acquisition process for 126 medium, multi-role combat aircraft (MMRCA). That resulted only in an $8.85 billion agreement with French company, Dassault, for 36 Rafale fighters, leaving a shortfall of at least 90 fighters, and up to 200 if one took into account the IAF’s fast-depleting fleet of vintage Russian MiG-21 and MiG-27 fighters.