Monday / June 17.


defIndia will launch an unmanned crew module in December onboard a heavy rocket to test its re-entry into the atmosphere for the country’s future maiden human space flight, the space agency chief said Thursday.


“We will send an unmanned crew module on the experimental GSLV-Mark III rocket in December and test its re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere for a human space flight plan in future,” Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chairman K. Radhakrishnan told reporters here on the margins of an engineers conclave.


Weighing 3.6 tonnes, the crew module will be put into space orbit 100-120 km away in a satellite and brought back to earth for checking its re-entry characteristics when carrying two Indian astronauts in the proposed human space flight.


“Though the actual human space flight will be in an orbit around earth at a height of 270 km for a week, the experimental flight with the crew module in a spacecraft will go up to 100-120 km above earth to test its heat shield survive very high temperatures (about 1, 500 degrees Celsius) during the re-entry into the atmosphere,” Radhakrishnan noted.


The crew module will have a parachute that will open up after re-entry into the atmosphere and fall into sea for retrieval.


“The parachute will open up for soft landing of the spacecraft carrying the crew module in the Bay of Bengal, about 450 km away from Andamans (islands), and will be retrieved by a boat,” Radhakrishnan said.


The previous UPA government had sanctioned Rs.145 crore to ISRO for developing a crew module that will fly two Indian astronauts into space, space suits, life support systems and related technologies for the human space flight programme.


The heavy rocket (GSLV) will, however, have a passive cryogenic stage – liquid nitrogen at super cooled temperature and gaseous nitrogen instead of liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen.


The space agency is integrating the rocket with the crew module at its Sriharikota spaceport in Andhra Pradesh, about 90 km northeast of Chennai.

(Source: Hindustan Times November 1, 2014)





Visiting British Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon MP, his Indian counterpart Arun Jaitley and Chief of Army Staff General Dalbir Singh attended a flagship event on Thursday evening to commemorate the centenary of the First World War (WW1) that saw the participation of over a million Indian volunteers.


The event was co-hosted by the Ministry of External Affairs, the United Service Institution of India (USI) and the British High Commission (BHC).


It included the unveiling of six Victoria Cross (VC) memorials won by Indian soldiers during the 1914-18 war; the presentation of war diaries to senior retired officers representing 27 regiments of undivided India; the presentation of digitised war diaries of the India Corps (that fought in France and Flanders) to Defence Minister Jaitley; the unveiling of a Victoria Cross (VC) commemorative bronze plaque; the unveiling of a battlefield guide book and a coffee table book giving a pictorial overview of India and the Great War by Defence Secretary Fallon and Mr. Navtej Sarna, Special Secretary in the Ministry of External Affairs.


Speaking on the occasion, Secretary Fallon said:”India and the UK are natural partners. The events I’ve attended and the discussions I’ve held in Delhi are the clearest possible evidence that this partnership is deep, broad and long-standing.


In a moving ceremony to mark the enormous contribution made by Indian servicemen during the First World War, Defence Minister Jaitley and I reflected on the common values which India and the UK shared then and still share now. There was, rightly, great pride on both sides.


We also looked forward, to consider how our countries can work together in tackling the many security challenges threatening global and regional security. And our shared pride at events a century ago stands us in very good stead as we embark together on that work.”


In his address, Jaitley said: “I am extremely grateful to your Excellency (UK Defence Minister) for having given us brief glimpse of six bravest of them all in whose honour these plaques have been unveiled and will be going to their home towns or their villages.”


A host of dignitaries comprising senior officials from the Indian defence, political and business establishments were present.


They included Navtej Sarna, Special Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs of India; British High Commissioner Sir James Bevan KCMG; USI Director General Lt. Gen. (retired) P.K. Singh; Squadron Leader Rana TS Chhina, Secretary and Editor, Centre for Armed Forces Historical Research (CAFHR), USI; Brigadier Brian McCall, Defence Adviser, British High Commission; Jody East, Curator of Exhibitions, Brighton Museum and Art Gallery and descendants of some of the Victoria Cross winners.


The Royal Air Force (RAF) and Indian Air Force (IAF) bands were in attendance and played some inspiring western, Indian classical, martial and Bollywood music.


The audience had the opportunity to watch some rare original black and white WW1 footage, including that of soldiers from the Indian corps. This was procured from the UK especially for the event. There were also 16 to 17 billboards that highlighted the Indian contribution during World War I.


In all, eleven Victoria Crosse’s were won in World War I. Apart from the six Indians, there were two Nepalese nationals and three by soldiers born in what is today recognized as Pakistan.


A war diary is an official record of events maintained during conflict. It includes routine orders, operational orders and administrative orders. In effect a historical record of the regiment’s life on the front.


The commemorative bronze plaque was unveiled at Lancaster House in London on June 26, 2014 by the then Foreign and Commonwealth Office senior minister Baroness Warsi.


The UK’s plans to mark the centenary of the First World War (WW1) both in the UK and abroad kicked off on 4 August this year. In the UK, activity includes a programme of ceremonial events spread over four years; a programme organised by the Imperial War Museum and funding for students and teachers to visit battlefields of the Western front.


The UK recognises that it could not have prevailed in WW1 without the huge contribution and sacrifice made by many countries.


The Great War started on July 28, 1914 and finished on November 11, 1918.


All of the world’s then great powers were involved in the conflict, which saw the participation of 70 million combatants, including a million-and-a-half from the undivided Indian subcontinent. More than nine million of these were killed.


About 70,000 volunteer Indian servicemen died in the war.


The Indian Army was the dominant force, but the Indian Navy also contributed as also the Army Flying Corps. There were also labour battalions recruited from Bengal.


The Great War was fought in 13 theatres, and the Indian Army has the distinction of having fought in almost all theatres of the war – France and Flanders, alongside the ANZACs at Gallipoli, Mesopotamia, Palestine and North Africa.


Apart from the memorial service conducted on August 4 at the Glasgow Cathedral for Commonwealth Leaders which coincided with the closing ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games; homage at the Symphorien Military Cemetery in Mons Belgium and a candle-lit vigil at Westminster Abbey, the UK has announced a rolling four-year programme with a significant WW1 milestone marking each year. These include centenary events at Gallipoli in April 2015, commemorations at the Battle of Jutland and first Battle of the Somme in 2016; commemoration at Passchendale in 2017 and observing the Armistice Day anniversary in 2018.

(Source: ANI News November 1, 2014)




Indian prime minister Narendra Modi announced a major military transfer to Vietnam on Tuesday to help modernize the country’s military forces, reports the nationalistic Beijing Times.


Modi announced that India will sell four offshore patrol vessels to Vietnam and approve a US$100 million line of credit to the country as soon as possible to help Vietnam obtain the vessels. This comes after a meeting with Vietnamese prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung, who visited India from Oct 27-28.


The Indian leader said defense cooperation with Vietnam is extremely important to India and pledged to continue helping with efforts to modernize Vietnamese national defense and security forces, which will include expansion of training programs, joint military drills and collaboration in defense equipment.


The transfer was first reported by Reuters but Chinese reporting on the agreement omitted saying that India and Vietnam made the deal out of mutual interest, to increase their own military strengths against China’s increasingly assertive claims in the South China Sea and the Himalayas, where India and Vietnam have clashed with their large neighbor over territorial claims.

(Source: Want China Times November 1, 2014)




St. Petersburg’s Proletarski Zavod (Proletarian Factory) will supply arresting gears and breaking machines for the under construction INS Vikrant aircraft carrier. The Russian enterprise has already supplied similar equipment for the INS Vikramaditya, Yury Skorikov, the factory’s general director told Tass.


“A contract has been signed with the Indian side. We are making arresting gears for the Vikrant aircraft carrier,” Skorikov said. He added that the enterprise is now considering an agreement on post-guarantee servicing of the arresting gears that are already found in the Vikramaditya since the basic time period of the warranty has already run out.


“We’ve already put braking machines on the Vikramaditya and are manufacturing them for the Vikrant aircraft carrier. Presumably the breaking machines for the Vikrant will be supplied in 2015,” Skorikov said.


The St. Petersburg enterprise also produces arresting gears for naval aviation pilot training complexes in Yeysk, Russia as well as in the Indian state of Goa. “Four arresting gears were delivered to Yeysk and the first machine has already been installed,” said Skorikov. “Deliveries were completed in 2013. Right now the equipment is being mounted.”


Proletarski Zavod is one of the oldest machine-building enterprises in St Petersburg. It specialises in marine and power engineering. According to its website, ship mechanisms, systems and complexes, that in certain cases do not have any analogues in home industry, are created at the factory.


The INS Vikrant is the first aircraft carrier built in India. The ship was “launched” in 2013 and construction is expected to be completed by 2016. The first ship of the Vikrant class of aircraft carriers is expected to be commissioned in 2018. Work is currently going on in the Cochin Shipyard in the Indian state of Kerala.


The aircraft carrier is 262 metres long and 60 metres wide, and displaces about 40,000 metric tons. The deck will be able to accommodate 30 aircrafts and is expected to host MiG 29K and Tejas aircrafts, as well as Kamov Ka-31 aircrafts. India will keep a squadron of 17 MiG 29s on the INS Vikrant to protect its eastern seaboard. Russia will deliver the second squadron of aircraft meant for the indigenous aircraft carrier by 2015.

(Source: Russia India Report November 1, 2014)





NEW DELHI: The Indian Army chief, Gen Dalbir Singh, will pay a goodwill visit to Bhutan Oct 31 to Nov 2, it was announced Friday.


The visit assumes special significance in the light of India’s special relationship with Bhutan, an official statement said.


This is the first visit to Bhutan by Gen Dalbir Singh “and it underpins India’s priorities in maintaining friendly, peaceful and cordial ties with her immediate neighbours”, the statement said.

(Source: New Indian Express November 1, 2014)





GSAT-6, the advanced communication satellite that got ISRO’s arm Antrix Corporation embroiled in a controversy with erstwhile partner Devas Multimedia P Ltd in 2011, is slated for a March 2015 launch.


The S-band GSAT-6 satellite with five special transponders for multimedia services is “all done”, integrated and should start thermovacuum tests in late November, according to ISRO Satellite Centre’s Director, S.K.Shivakumar, whose centre readies all Indian spacecraft in Bangalore.


The 2,000-odd-kg satellite is to be launched on a GSLV launcher from Sriharikota. It was conceived in 2005 along with a follow-on GSAT-6A. The Centre cancelled the contract with Devas in February 2011, reserved GSAT-6 for military use; thereby hangs a hefty arbitration case pressed by Devas in The Hague.


Starting with GSAT-16 on December 5, ISRO has lined up a series of communication and Earth observation satellites over the next two or three years, Dr. Shivakumar told a news conference on Wednesday to announce Engineers’Conclave co-hosted by ISRO.


These satellites promise to fill a much needed demand for satellite capacity and continuation of services for users in the country. Currently, a third of the satellite capacity comes from on transponders leased on foreign satellites.


Among communication spacecraft, the 3,000-kg GSAT-16, as this daily has reported, will be flown on a European Ariane-5 launcher from French Guiana.


It will be followed by GSAT-15 in mid-2015; GSAT-18 [18] at the end of 2015; GSAT-17 in early 2016. (ISRO’s satellite numbering order changes often.) All these satellites will be put in orbit on foreign launchers as the ISRO could not yet do it for 3000-class satellites, he said.


Among Earth observation satellites, Cartosat-2C will be the next to be flown in a year’s time; it will have the highest ever resolution for an Indian satellite so far, of 62 cm. The best so far has been around 80 cm, but for select users.


“If this is achieved, it will be repeated for CArtosat-2D and 2E also,” Dr. Shivakumar said.


With the GSLV-MkIII launcher set for a test flight in the coming weeks, Dr. Shivakumar said it was expected to launch ISRO satellites of up to 4,000 kg in two years. The GSLV with a 2,000-kg capability is yet to become operational.

(Source: Hindu November 1, 2014)





Events in the recent past have made it clear that the Narendra Modi government is serious about India’s military and geopolitical ambitions. It is a truism that a blue-water navy that can project power over long distances is a necessity for any major power, especially one with global ambitions. Equally, it is clear that any power worth its salt has to deter other powers from doing things that would hurt its geopolitically.


In this context, Vietnam becomes significant for India for several reasons. It is clear that India’s most important enemy is China, which has embarked on a ‘string-of-pearls’ strategy to surround and contain India in a “South-Asia” ghetto of sorts (incidentally, the Chinese have been the most enthusiastic propagators of that meaningless term in an attempt to dilute India’s fairly good and historical brand, while they aggressively push the ‘Greater China’ brand, notably not an ‘East Asia’ brand.)


Vietnam is possibly the most potent of China’s neighbors in terms of military skills; at any rate it is the only one to have defeated China in battle recently. In 1979, China invaded Vietnam (coincidentally while India’s then foreign minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was visiting Beijing, in what amounted to a diplomatic slap in the face for India). But the battle-hardened Vietnamese were more than a match for the Chinese, who were forced to withdraw with a bloody nose.


Secondly, the Vietnamese are currently victimized by Chinese aggression in the South China Sea, which the Chinese consider their private lake, where they have deemed a vague “9-dash line” citing obscure old maps as the limit of their exclusive economic zone. In effect, they claim most of the sea, putting them in conflict with Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan (which has historical claims to some of the islands) and everybody else with interests there.


The aggression almost came to blows when the Chinese anchored a large oil rig in Vietnam’s territorial waters, that is, what that would legally be Vietnamese according to the UNCLOS (UN Conference on the Law of the Seas). A Vietnamese flotilla of fishing boats was met by Chinese naval vessels; although there were no deaths on the high seas, angry Vietnamese set fire to Chinese-owned (and some Taiwanese-owned) factories, and if I remember right, a few people were killed.


For some time, India has been in discussions with Vietnam about offshore oil fields, and in addition to threatening Vietnam, the Chinese saber-rattled against India as well and in effect ordered it to stop eyeing oil that was allegedly its. This is in keeping with China’s oft-proclaimed “peaceful rise”, a nice euphemism for bullying all and sundry and saber-rattling with abandon.


It was quite telling, therefore, that the Modi government chose the week that Chinese strongman Xi was in India to have the Indian President and Foreign Minister in Vietnam sign a slew of agreements on defense cooperation and oil exploration. Apparently what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, too.


Then there was the Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s visit to India this week. Narendra Modi welcomed him warmly, saying India’s defense cooperation with Vietnam is “among India’s most important”. Even discounting diplomatic-speak, this is literally true. An emerging ‘reverse string-of-pearls’ strategy by India, Vietnam, Japan, Australia, and Russia would have a significant containment and chilling effect on China’s global ambitions. Let us note the effusive warmth between Australia’s PM Tony Abbott and the Indian PM during the former’s visit in September; furthermore Modi is to visit Australia in November.


Modi has not been shy about China: in Japan, he condemned “expansionist policies” of un-named nations; in the US, he suggested it was a priority to “safeguard maritime security in the South China Sea”. The Vietnamese PM similarly sought “India’s support” in the South China Sea; he announced plans to acquire four offshore patrol vehicles from India, along with a $100m credit line for the same and for Indian military training.


For good measure, India’s ONGC Videsh Limited signed an agreement to explore two offshore blocks in the South China Sea (although these are not in waters claimed by the Chinese).


There are a couple of other things the blossoming Indo-Vietnamese military engagement should pursue. One is India possibly leasing some part of the giant Camh Ranh Bay naval base built by the Americans in the erstwhile South Vietnam, as part of its blue-water reach into the Straits of Malacca and points east.


The second, which could be even more significant, would involve Indian Navy getting facilities at the northern Vietnamese port of Haiphong. This is a major port, but what’s interesting it that it lies directly opposite China’s Hainan island (thanks to Naren Menon for pointing this out to me). Haiphong is only 400km from Sanya in Hainan (see here), which has China’s top-secret pen for its nuclear submarines. Indian warships in the vicinity will give the PLAN some cause for concern.


China is extremely sensitive about Sanya and Hainan. It bristled over American overflights recently and is generally believed to consider it a major component of its offensive and defensive capability – the tip of its spear, if you will, according to a report from the US armed forces. India needs to be nervous about this as suggested by this paper.


Submarines as a component of a nuclear weapons triad have long been seen as a major deterrent, since they provide significant second-strike capacity promising retaliation if there is a nuclear attack on land. Thus the Chinese sensitivity over its nuclear-powered submarines (these can stay submerged and undetected much longer than diesel-powered ones) that are also armed with nuclear missiles.


A recent report in the Wall Street Journal provided a stark reminder that at the rate that China is building submarines, it will rapidly outstrip all competition in Asia. Thus it is a welcome move by the Modi government to overcome the defense deadlock that has prevailed for some time under the previous defense minister, a good man prone to do-nothingness as he was paralyzed by fear of scandals in procurement.


There were several moves, one being to build an 1800-km highway all along the Chinese-occupied Tibet (CoT) border (to which the Chinese, predictably, objected), and the decision to go ahead with building six new submarines in domestic shipyards. This is good news for the India Navy, which has seen its comparative advantage in the Indian Ocean and surrounding areas diminish in the last few decades.


The focus of world power is moving from the Atlantic Ocean to the Indo-Pacific, especially as the Africa-West Asia-India-Southeast Asia-East Asia region becomes the dynamo of global growth and trade going forward. In particular, a critical sea lane from the Straits of Hormuz to the Straits of Malacca carries the vast majority of global oil flows, which will continue for the foreseeable future. India, as the power right smack in the middle of that arc, needs to take proactive steps to ensure that it can police the area.


The submarines, and the deals with Vietnam, are a beginning in a potential Pax Indica in the Indian Ocean. But we better hurry, before it becomes a Pax Sinica.

(Source: First Post November 1, 2014)




Vietnam prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s visit has just ended with a sealing of a defence pact. That this significant accord was readied as a follow-up to the defence Memorandum of Understanding signed a scant month and half after president Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Hanoi suggests New Delhi has finally woken up to Vietnam’s seminal importance to India’s strategic well-being.


This special standing of Vietnam in India’s geopolitics, incidentally, took the ministry of external affairs (MEA) and the Indian government more than a decade to appreciate—from the articulation by then prime minister P V Narasimha Rao in 1992-93 of the “Look East” policy to when his successor, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, betook himself to Hanoi in 2003 which produced the agreement on civilian nuclear cooperation. Another 11 years elapsed before the advent of the Narendra Modi government and this appreciation growing teeth.


Since 2005, I have been advocating the transfer of the Brahmos supersonic cruise missile—the only one of its kind in the world—to Vietnam. In 2007, Hanoi for the first time expressed its keen interest in securing this singularly accurate and lethal weapon to defend itself and deter China from having its way in the disputed sea territories in the South China Sea—almost the whole of which Beijing claims as its own in a brazen bid for a maritime lebensraum. Lebensraum is the concept the Nazi geographer and geopolitical strategist Karl Haushofer coined in the 1930s to justify Germany’s policy of territorial aggrandisement at the expense of the Central European states, Poland and Russia. It refers to the “living space” Haushofer said a vigorous Germany needed legitimately to expand in order to increase its resources base, consolidate its strength, and realise its grand ambition. China is the Germany of the 21st Century and it has got to be stopped.


The case that China is India’s biggest challenge (not Pakistan that Indians and their government get mightily exercised about) and Vietnam is the pivotal state around which New Delhi can obtain a coalition of Asian rimland and offshore countries to ringfence China was a geostrategic scheme first articulated in my 1994 book “Future Imperilled”. So, when the newly founded National Security Advisory Board constituted during Vajpayee’s time met with MEA in the autumn of 1998 and I as member of the board, assuming the Indian diplomats were clued into the theories and practice of geopolitics, asked then foreign secretary K Raghunath why India had failed to respond to Beijing’s calculated policy of nuclear missile-arming Pakistan over the previous decade with a tit-for-tat gesture and a policy of imposing costs on China, by transferring easily nuclearisable missiles to Vietnam, Raghunath replied with practised certitude. “It is not practicable,” he said.


Fast forward 16 years and the impracticable has become Indian policy—the Modi government has decided to pass on the Brahmos missile to Hanoi which, appropriately, finds no mention in the Joint Statement issued by prime ministers Modi and Dung. These anti-ship weapons, for which there’s no counter, will be installed in shore batteries along the Vietnamese coast fronting on the Hainan Island, to deter the Chinese South Seas Fleet based there, and as sentinels for that country’s offshore claims and oil and gas exploration and drilling assets in the South China Sea, and to dissuade the Chinese navy from capturing disputed sea territories as happened in the case of the Paracel Islands.


The MEA during Manmohan Singh’s time turned aside repeated Vietnamese requests for the Brahmos by asserting that the Russian partner company in this project, NPO Maschinostroeyenia was against any such deal. It lost India traction with a strategic partner Indonesia as well, which too had asked for the Brahmos. Denied by New Delhi, Jakarta directly approached Moscow and secured the slightly derated version of the Brahmos, the Ramos. The difference with the onset of the Modi dispensation was that India rather than merely seeking Russian assent for the transfer of this cruise missile to Vietnam pushed for it.


Indeed, the MEA and the ministry of defence (MoD) bureaucrats, who in line with the Congress government’s instincts for kowtowing to Beijing routinely vetoed initiatives over the past decade by the armed forces to improve India’s relative security position vis-a-vis China by using transfers of armaments and forging military-to-military links, are now more receptive.


With the first stirrings of geopolitical common sense in the fusty corridors of the MEA and MoD, New Delhi will hopefully begin to see that Vietnam can be to India what Pakistan is to China. A Chinese nuclear missile-armed Pakistan, enabled by Beijing to grow its indigenous defence industry beyond the screwdriver technology the Indian defence PSUs are stuck at, and thus to acquire a measure of genuine self-reliance has, as per Beijing’s design, contained India to the subcontinent. India, in similar fashion, can prioritise the military build-up of Vietnam (and the Philippines, and Indonesia) as the first tier of India’s distant defence with a view to restricting Chinese options east of the Malacca Strait.


The logic behind such a policy, as I keep repeating in my writings, is that if we don’t have the stomach for a fight with China and cannot muster the will to stand up to Beijing, let’s at least arm the Vietnamese who over a thousand years have bloodied Chinese forces intruding into their country, and never shied away from a fight. It is a cost-effective means of diminishing India’s primary security threat and military challenge and, equally important, of paying Beijing back in its own coin.


India also needs to capitalise on the opportunity to distance Vietnam economically from China, incentivising it with lines of credit and Indian investment to plug into the Indian economy instead. In this respect, the business delegation with Dung, hopefully, returned home with a bag full of deals. A more telling measure would be to increase manifold the Indian stake in Vietnam’s security by investing in its energy resource sector. ONGC Videsh should act quickly on Dung’s offer of new oil blocks inside the Vietnamese claimline in the South China Sea.

(Source: New Indian Express November 1, 2014)

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