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Why Sino-Pak Naval Exercise In Northern Arabian Sea Is A Concern For New Delhi

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Why Sino-Pak Naval Exercise In Northern Arabian Sea Is A Concern For New Delhi


The general region where the week-long exercise (11-17 November) takes place has witnessed past naval battles between India and Pakistan

by N Sathiya Moorthy

The near-simultaneous naval exercises between China and Pakistan in the northern Arabian Sea and those involving Russia and Myanmar off the Andamans carry a message for India. True, Russia and Myanmar are not unfriendly towards India just now, but the other two are. However, in times of geo-strategic, geo-political crises of the kind the US-initiated Indo-Pacific, Quad and AUKUS predicate, New Delhi could be staring at probabilities that it had not counted as possibilities in the past.

News reports speak about the Government of India maintaining whatever close watch is possible on the Sino-Pakistan exercise. The general region where the week-long exercise (11-17 November) takes place has witnessed past naval battles between India and Pakistan. The last one was the ‘Bangladesh War’ (1971), which was also the last full-fledged war between the two nations. The ‘Kargil War’ in 1999 was limited to the Himalayan heights and did not transcend to become a full-fledged war. Nor did it involve the navies of the two countries.

In the case of the India-China imbroglio, their navies were not involved in the past. That includes the 1962 war, in which India lost territory and pride, not necessarily in that order. Later-day military engagements, including the Galwan episode in June 2020, did not blow out into a full-fledged war, either. Hence, the navy and even their air force were not involved.

Externalising Internal Troubles

This raises the question of why Sino-Pakistan exercises now, how, and where. In the normal course, the belief was that reeling under an unprecedented economic crisis, Pakistan would not do anything as adventurous as engaging with the Chinese adversary of its invisible American underwriter in the IMF, which seems to be the country’s sole hope for recovery. Even such a recovery is going to take years, if not decades.

It is tempting to compare India’s economic recovery of the early nineties with those that neighbours like Pakistan and Sri Lanka hope for. The major difference is that India was strapped for cash at the time but was not lagging behind for other resources, including human resources. The socialist model had provided a strong techno-economic base. Natural resources, like minerals, were abundant. By breathing fresh air into policy-making, the country could transform itself almost overnight into what it is today: the world’s fifth-largest economy, racing to become the third before the decade ends.

Pakistan cannot boast of such fundamentals. The nation spent its formative years and decades externalising its internal troubles, real and imaginary. When India was going through phases of nation-building in social and economic terms, by focusing nation-building near-exclusively on ‘Kashmir-centric’ India-baiting and wars, Pakistan lost the energy and initiative it too had inherited at Independence and Partition. There is, of course, a lesson in it for India, too: never ever rationalise nation-building through foreign and security policies that also deviate from the realities on the ground, nearer home.

De-Hyphenated Relation

Today, post-9/11, post-Afghanistan, the US has been moving increasingly away from Pakistan in the past couple of decades. It is now doubtful if Washington exercises the same quantum of goodwill or pressure on Islamabad as it used to. Definitely, the reverse is not happening. Gone are the days when the US, and hence much of the rest of the West, did not take India’s accusations about Pakistan developing a nuclear bomb seriously. India’s Pokhran-II tests exposed the West for what they were worth, as it was followed by Pakistan testing its undeclared nuclear capability and weapons capability all at once at Chagai, only weeks after Pokhran-II, in 1998.

Today, the US has strong relations with India, much more than it was with Pakistan any time during the hay days of relations, dating back to the fifties, so to say. In contrast, Pakistan has become a ‘pariah state’ for the American policymaker, especially on matters of cross-border terrorism against India, another area where Washington has pretended to be blind to Indian concerns and evidence in the past.

This one is not about the India-Pakistan-US triangle. Instead, it is about how a Pakistan estranged from the US and also feels used since the days of the erstwhile Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and even earlier could act or react in the present-day circumstances. China and Pakistan have a strong multi-layered relationship going all along, and in the Pakistan-American estrangement, Beijing seems to be staring at a geo-strategic opportunity.

For one thing, India’s north-western region is the happening place in geo-strategic terms, maybe more than the South-East Asian waters, as often believed. The unresolved US-Iran crisis, coupled with the Ukraine War, and now the turmoil in the Gulf may have made the northern Arabian Sea more volatile than understood or acknowledged. No one is predicting anything just now along the Gulf-Arab coastline than at present, but as nations, China and Pakistan are literally testing the waters and seemingly preparing themselves for any eventuality, over which they have to be cautious first and then try and exploit in geo-strategic and geo-political terms.

Beginning Or The End?

The deep-sea port of Gwadar on the Arabian Sea is in Pakistan but is in the possession of China, just as Hambantota in Sri Lanka. On record, that is the end or beginning point (whichever way you look at it) of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). The details of the Gwadar Port agreement, or that on CPEC, are not known to the outside world. It is hence unknown if Pakistan has given China the right to defend their business interests militarily if external elements were to disturb trade through Gwadar Port. Can and will China and Pakistan together launch military operations to ‘protect’ their bilateral trade and maritime routes, as if to ‘enforce at sea’, as the rest of the world is telling Beijing to do in the South China Sea, on the other wing of India?

For India, the US’ de-hyphenation of Pakistan from its India relations may have consequences, especially after Washington refused to step in to save that nation from the economic abyss that it is finding itself in over the past several months. India has nothing to fear from such delinking in terms of security and defence of the nation, as has been proven in the three major wars it has fought with Pakistan since 1948 and the smaller one in Kargil in 1999.

Even without it, India is well-secured from Chinese naval forays in the south of the nation. Yes, China is present at Hambantota. It has many more projects running in Sri Lanka. Its so-called research vessels are visiting Sri Lanka now and again. After one each last year and this, a third one is expected early next year. It remains to be seen if, like on the past two ‘voyages’, the government of President Ranil Wickremesinghe pulls a fast one on the Indian neighbour (which has legit security concerns) and also on the US having geo-strategic dominance across the world—or is perceived to be so, as yet.

Yet, India is relatively secure in those parts. The Indian Navy has been doing a credible and creditable job of manning the ocean. Then, you have the US military base in Diego Garcia and the French Reunion Island, apart from India’s own tri-services command jutting out on the Andamans and a near-similar establishment on the Lakshadweep islands. Then there are the other two Quad nations, namely, Australia and Japan. In a way, an India-adversarial naval vessel, including a carrier group, with declared or even suspected war intentions may feel entrapped in these waters.

Credible, Creditable

The same cannot be said of the northern Arabian Sea off Pakistan’s coast, at least until proved otherwise. It could be more so if China were to enter the scene directly in these waters alongside Pakistan or provide the so-called logistics and technical support to the Pakistan Navy from behind, from being on-hand at Gwadar, which could have consequences. It may not mean that the Indian Navy cannot cope, surmount, and show up its superiority one more time, but it could be more prolonged than imagined from past experience.

Of course, there is also Pakistan’s own nuclear bomb and attendant threats, which Pervez Musharraf flagged during the Kargil War. On the occasion, he declared that he would not hesitate to employ ‘tactical nuclear weapons’ if the Indian troops crossed into Pakistani territory—on the ground, of course. At that time, the US had greater command over Pakistan than possibly at present. China now may have that kind of hold over Pakistan and may be as serious as the US and the rest of the world in telling Islamabad not to press the nuclear button—and also succeed in convincing the other.

The writer is a Chennai-based policy analyst and political commentator





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INS Arihant’s Nuke-Capable K-4 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile ‘Ready To Roll’

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INS Arihant’s Nuke-Capable K-4 Submarine-Launched Ballistic Missile ‘Ready To Roll’


NEW DELHI: India tested its nuclear capable K-4 submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), designed to have a strike range of 3,500 km, for the second time in six days on Friday. The missile test, as the one conducted on January 19, was undertaken from an undersea platform in the shape of a submersible pontoon off the coast of Andhra Pradesh according to a report by Rajat Pandit of TOI.

The solid-fuelled K-4 missile is being developed by DRDO to arm the country’s nuclear-powered submarines in the shape of INS Arihant and its under-development sister vessels. INS Arihant, which became fully operational in November 2018 to complete India’s nuclear triad, is currently armed with the much shorter K-15 missiles with a 750 km range.

“The K-4 is now virtually ready for its serial production to kick-off. The two tests have demonstrated its capability to emerge straight from underwater and undertake its parabolic trajectory,” said a source.

India has the land-based Agni missiles, with the over 5,000-km Agni-V inter-continental ballistic missile now in the process of being inducted, and fighter jets jury-rigged to deliver nuclear weapons. But INS Arihant gives the country’s deterrence posture much more credibility because nuclear-powered submarines armed with nuclear-tipped missiles are considered the most secure, survivable and potent platforms for retaliatory strikes.

Once the K-4 missiles are inducted, they will help India narrow the gap with countries like the US, Russia and China, which have over 5,000-km range SLBMs. The K-4 missiles are to be followed by the K-5 and K-6 missiles in the 5,000-6,000 km range class.

The 6,000-ton INS Arihant, which is propelled by an 83 MW pressurised light-water reactor at its core, in turn, is to be followed by INS Arighat, which was launched in 2017. The next generation of nuclear submarines, currently called S-4 and S-4*, will be much larger in size.





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After Upgradation, Sukhoi Su-30MKI Indigenisation To Reach 78%

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After Upgradation, Sukhoi Su-30MKI Indigenisation To Reach 78%


India has received clearance to upgrade 84 Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets, which will result in 78% indigenization after the upgrade

In a significant step towards bolstering its military might with indigenously developed technology, India is poised to witness its Russian-origin Sukhoi Su-30MKI fighter jets evolve into a domestic platform. Speaking at a recent lecture.

The upgrade program is being led by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) in partnership with the Indian Air Force and other partners. The upgrade is expected to cost US$7.5 billion.

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) granted Acceptance of Necessity (AoN) for the upgrade. The upgrade is part of India’s efforts to improve the capabilities of its primary fighter aircraft, it refers to as the “Super Sukhoi”.

This initiative is a part of a larger effort by the Indian Air Force to modernize its ageing fleet. Air Chief Marshal Chaudhari asserted the critical role of an offensive air force as demonstrated in current global conflicts and emphasized India’s move towards an indigenized arsenal. To this end, the IAF has been proactive, from upgrading its Mirage 2000 to enhancing its MiG-29 fleet.

In summary, the IAF’s commitment to updating their combat forces with the latest technology, including shifting to fifth-generation fighter jets, ensures operational preparedness and a strong deterrence capability. The gradual indigenization of its air fleet marks a pivotal shift in India’s defence landscape, reducing dependency on foreign imports and fostering technological sovereignty.





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Akash Weapon System Exports For The Armenian Armed Forces Gathers Pace

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Akash Weapon System Exports For The Armenian Armed Forces Gathers Pace


According to unconfirmed reports, Armenia is a top contender for an export order for Akash SAM system manufactured by Bharat Dynamics Limited (BDL).

While there is no official confirmation because of the sensitivities involved, documents suggest that the order for the same has already been placed the report further added.
There are nine countries, in turn, which have shown interest in the indigenously-developed Akash missile systems, which can intercept hostile aircraft, helicopters, drones and subsonic cruise missiles at a range of 25-km. They are Kenya, Philippines, Indonesia, UAE, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Vietnam and Algeria reported TOI.

The Akash export version will also be slightly different from the one inducted by the armed forces. The 100-km range air-to-air Astra missiles, now entering production after successful trials from Sukhoi-30MKI fighters, also have “good export potential”, said sources.

Akash is a “tried, tested and successfully inducted systems”. Indian armed forces have ordered Akash systems worth Rs 24,000 crore over the years, and MoD inked a contract in Mar 2023 of over Rs 9,100 crores for improved Akash Weapon System

BDL is a government enterprise under the Ministry of Defence that was established in 1970. BDL manufactures surface-to-air missiles and delivers them to the Indian Army. BDL also offers its products for export.

Akash Weapon System

The AWS is a Short Range Surface to Air Missile (SRSAM) Air Defence System, indigenously designed and developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO). In order to meet aerial threats, two additional Regiments of AWS with Upgradation are being procured for Indian Army for the Northern borders. Improved AWS has Seeker Technology, Reduced Foot Print, 360° Engagement Capability and improved environmental parameters.

The project will give a boost to the Indian missile manufacturing industry in particular and the indigenous defence manufacturing ecosystem as a whole. The project has overall indigenous content of 82% which will be increased to 93% by 2026-27.

The induction of the improved AWS into the Indian Army will increase India’s self-reliance in Short Range Missile capability. This project will play a role in boosting the overall economy by avoiding outgo of precious foreign exchange to other countries, increasing employment avenues in India and encouraging Indian MSMEs through components manufacturing. Around 60% of the project cost will be awarded to the private industry, including MSMEs, in maintaining the supply chain of the weapon system, thereby creating large scale of direct and indirect employment.





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