India step-ups its maritime security efforts, inks agreement to gather information on merchant navies in international waters

India inks Ascension Agreement to the Trans Regional Maritime Network (T-RMN) with Italy. The multilateral construct comprises of 30 countries and is steered by Italy.

India already has bilateral White Shipping Agreements with 36 countries.

About the Trans Regional Maritime Network (T-RMN):

The network facilitates information exchange on the movement of commercial traffic on the high seas.

The information is available primarily through the Automatic Identification System (AIS) fitted on merchant ships with more than 300 gross registered tonnages as mandated by the International Maritime Organisation.

The AIS information comprises the name, MMSI number, position, course, speed, last port visited, destination and so on. This information can be picked up through various AIS sensors including coastal AIS chains and satellite-based receivers.

Such multilateral agreements are necessitated due to the large traffic in the Indian Ocean which cannot be entirely monitored by any one nation.

This is a significant move as it will help the Indian Navy keep a watch over the vast Indian Ocean and boost maritime security of the country. India is part of several such agreements, which help the nations to coordinate and share information to keep tabs on suspicious activities and illegal trade across the oceans.

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Indian Navy launches Information Fusion Centre to boost maritime security

With an aim to strengthen maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region (IOR), Indian Navy has launched its Information Fusion Centre (IFC) that will share information on vessels of interest with other friendly nations. IFC will function as a platform where multiple friendly nations can freely exchange non-sensitive information from maritime domain.

IFC is based at the Indian Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) at Gurugram in the National Capital Region. IMAC is the single point centre on Indian Navy, linking all the coastal radar chains to generate a seamless real-time picture of the nearly 7,500km coastline.

The IFC-IOR is being established with the vision of strengthening maritime security in the region and beyond, by building a common coherent maritime situation picture and acting as a maritime information hub for the region.

The IFC has been established at the Navy’s Information Management and Analysis Centre (IMAC) in Gurugram, which is the single point centre linking all the coastal radar chains to generate a seamless real-time picture of the nearly 7,500-km coastline.

Through this Centre, information on “white shipping”, or commercial shipping, will be exchanged with countries in the region to improve maritime domain awareness in the Indian Ocean.

The IOR has a diverse set of littorals and island nations, each with their unique needs, aspirations, interest and values. The rise in maritime piracy in the region has had its impact worldwide, which shows how important these waters are to the nations and economies the world over.

Although concerted efforts by the navies and maritime security agencies over the last few years have significantly reduced this threat, other challenges persist.

Establishment of the IFR-IRO would ensure that the entire region is benefited by mutual collaboration and exchange of information and understanding the concerns and threats which are prevalent in the region.

The Indian Ocean is important for the following reasons:

It enjoys a privileged location at the crossroads of global trade, connecting the major engines of the international economy in the Northern Atlantic and Asia-Pacific. This is particularly important in an era in which global shipping has burgeoned.

The Indian Ocean is also rich in natural resources. 40% of the world’s offshore oil production takes place in the Indian Ocean basin. Fishing in the Indian Ocean now accounts for almost 15% of the world’s total.

Mineral resources are equally important, with nodules containing nickel, cobalt, and iron, and massive sulphide deposits of manganese, copper, iron, zinc, silver, and gold present in sizeable quantities on the seabed. Indian Ocean coastal sediments are also important sources of titanium, zirconium, tin, zinc, and copper. Additionally, various rare earth elements are present, even if their extraction is not always commercially feasible.

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Indian Navy inducts its first Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle

The Indian Navy inducted its first Deep Submergence Rescue Vehicle (DSRV) System at the Naval Dockyard in Mumbai.

DSRV is used to rescue crew members stranded in submarines that get disabled. The Indian Navy joins a select group of naval forces in the world that boasts of this niche capability.

The DSRV can be operated at a depth of 650 meters and can hold around 15 people. The Indian Navy in March 2016 had commissioned two DSRVs, the second will deployed at the Eastern Naval Command in Visakhapatnam.

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IAF, US air force to conduct joint exercise ‘Cope India 2019’

The air forces of the United States and India are scheduled to participate in a 12-day- long joint exercise ‘Cope India 2019’ at two air force stations in West Bengal in December 2018.

The exercise will be held from December 3-14 at Air Station Kalaikunda and Air Station Arjan Singh in Panagarh airbase. It showcases the efforts and commitment of the two nations to build a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

Cope India: Key Highlights

  • The Cope India exercise is being held after a gap of eight years, with the last one having taken place in 2010.
  • The exercise is a long-standing bilateral US Pacific Air Forces-sponsored Field Training Exercise, conducted with the Indian Air Force.
  • It focuses on enhancing mutual cooperation between the US and India and building on the existing capabilities, aircrew tactics, and force employment.
  • Around 200 men from the US Air Force with 15 aircraft from the 18th Wing, Kadena Air Base, Japan, and 182nd Airlift Wing, Illinois Air National Guard will take part in the exercise alongside men from the Indian Air Force.
  • Cope India is a series of joint Air Force exercises held between the Indian Air Force and the United States Air Force, in India.
  • The first such exercise, which required many months of preparation, was conducted at the air force station in Gwalior in February 2004.
  • The exercise included flight tests, practice, and demonstrations as well as lectures on subjects related to aviation.
  • There were also media functions and social interactions held among troops of the two countries.
  • The exercise has now evolved to incorporate subject matter expert exchanges, air mobility training, airdrop training, and large-force exercises, in addition to fighter-training exercises.
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Government allows ‘small nature’ construction around border areas

Ministry of Defence (MoD) on Tuesday allowed construction in certain activities of “small nature” around border area, hitherto restricted under ‘Security Restrictions Guidelines’ issued in 1990 and later in 2017.

Under the new rules, restrictions have been lifted for works like construction, repair, and maintenance of village ponds, construction and maintenance of government buildings like schools and hospitals.

It has allowed developmental work of small nature to be carried out by the central or state governments’ statutory bodies for faster development in the border areas.

The need for new guidelines was felt, as the earlier restrictions were restrictive in nature towards developmental activities near border areas and were not fully facilitating in developmental works of small nature in the border areas.

The construction works in the border areas were getting affected due to provisions listed in the Defence Ministry’s existing guidelines. Hence, the state governments put forward requests to the center to consider revision of the guidelines.

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Russia tipped to win Army contract for air defence missiles

Russian defense major Rosoboronexport is understood to have emerged as the lowest bidder in the Indian Army’s tender for procurement of a batch of short-range air defense missile systems, official sources said late on Monday.

The other contenders for the deal were Swedish firm SAAB and French military firm MBDA.

The Indian Army plans to procure hundreds of short-range air defense missiles as part of its efforts to enhance its overall combat capability.

If Rososboronexport is awarded the contract, it will be another mega contract won by Russia after the S-400 air defense deal. In October, India and Russia finalized the S-400 air defense missile system deal for the Indian Air Force.

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Nuclear submarine Arihant completes first deterrence patrol mission

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that India’s first nuclear-armed submarine INS Arihant had successfully completed its first deterrence patrol, heralding India’s entry into an exclusive club of powers with land, air and sea-based nuclear weapons delivery platforms.

At the moment it is dubbed a technology demonstrator, showing the world that India has acquired this technology but that it will take some time before India gets a deployable fleet of such submarines. However, analysts said the 6,000-tonne vessel with a range of about 750km sends a powerful signal to Pakistan and China that New Delhi’s underwater nuclear deterrence is “credible”, potent and functional. This comes against the backdrop of news reports of Chinese submarines repeatedly making their presence felt in the Indian Ocean region, even as India-China ties stabilize.

The Arihant propels India into a club so far dominated by the US, France, Britain, China and Russia, demonstrating India’s technological capability to design, build and operate nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines or SSBNs. The US leads the pack with more than 70 nuclear submarines and is followed by Russia with about 30. Britain and France have 10-12 submarines each.

A ballistic missile submarine is a strategic asset as it can fire missiles from anywhere in the ocean and remain undetected for long. It can creep along the coast of an enemy nation and fire ballistic missiles deep into their territory, which cannot be reached by land-based short-range ballistic missiles.

About INS Arihant:

Arihant was commissioned into service in August 2016. It has a displacement of 6000 tonnes and is powered by an 83 MW pressurised light-water reactor with enriched uranium.

In 1998, India conducted nuclear tests under Pokhran-II and in 2003, it declared its nuclear doctrine based on credible minimum deterrence and an NFU policy while reserving the right of massive retaliation if struck with nuclear weapons first.

No first use (NFU) refers to a pledge or a policy by a nuclear power not to use nuclear weapons as a means of warfare unless first attacked by an adversary using nuclear weapons. Earlier, the concept had also been applied to chemical and biological warfare.

India first adopted a “No first use” policy after its second nuclear tests, Pokhran-II, in 1998. In August 1999, the Indian government released a draft of the doctrine which asserts that nuclear weapons are solely for deterrence and that India will pursue a policy of “retaliation only”.

The document also maintains that India “will not be the first to initiate a nuclear first strike, but will respond with punitive retaliation should deterrence fail” and that decisions to authorise the use of nuclear weapons would be made by the Prime Minister or his ‘designated successor(s)’.

Adopting a no-first-use policy enables New Delhi to keep the nuclear threshold high, especially as Pakistan tries to lower the threshold by developing tactical nuclear weapons, the Hatf-9 with a 60km range.

It must also be noted that New Delhi is not bordered by just one nuclear weapon state. China adopts a no-first-use policy and, in spite of calls for Beijing to revise its no-first-use doctrine, it is unlikely to do so. Hence, if New Delhi gave up its no-first-use doctrine, it could give Beijing a chance to adopt a first strike policy and shift blame on India.

In fact, India’s adoption of a first strike policy would be an easy excuse for Beijing to give up its no-first-use doctrine against the United States and Russia as well.

Moreover, India has always promoted herself as a responsible nuclear weapon state. Hence, a first strike policy would severely damage India’s reputation as a responsible nuclear weapon state. This means that while India would not be resilient to any nuclear attack by its adversaries, at the same time, it will not act as a villain who tries to bully its adversaries by threatening to strike first.

Also, it is India’s no first use doctrine that has enabled both Pakistan and India to keep their nuclear arsenal in a de-mated posture rather than a ready deterrent posture. This means nuclear warheads are not mated with the delivery systems. This reduces the chances of nuclear terrorism in Pakistan and also reduces the likelihood of an accidental launch of a nuclear weapon. A first strike policy by India may not have allowed Pakistan to keep their nuclear arsenal in a de-mated posture.

There is also the issue of ballistic missile defence being developed by India which is highly destabilizing in nature and hence, New Delhi would continue to resort to using its no-first-use doctrine in order to prevent instability in the South Asian region. A first-strike policy, coupled with a ballistic missile defence system, could provoke Pakistan to launch a nuclear pre-emptive strike against India.

By adopting a no-first-use doctrine, New Delhi has also made it evident that nuclear weapons are indeed the weapons of last resort. Abandoning this doctrine would make it evident that India considers the option of using nuclear weapons in the initial phases of the conflict. In fact, India’s nuclear strategy is dependent on punitive retaliation. This strategy itself acts as a deterrence against Pakistan.

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Decommissioned carrier INS Viraat to become a floating museum

The Maharashtra Cabinet  approved the conversion of decommissioned carrier INS Viraat into a floating museum.
As per primary estimates, the project worth 852 crore rupees will be implemented through public-private-partnership (PPP).A state Government press release said the decision has been taken to elicit interest among the school and college students in the marine sector. Besides, it will make the new generation familiar with the glorious history of INS Viraat. 

As per the proposal sent by the Maharashtra Government to the Union Defence Ministry, the carrier will be housed on a concrete foundation near Nivati Rocks in Sindhudurg in Konkan region of the state.

This will enable the tourists to see the diverse aquatic life and experience sky-diving, sailing and other thrilling sporting activities. INS Viraat, which holds a place of pride in Indian defence history, was decommissioned in March 2017 and since then has been laid up at the Naval Dockyard. 

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DAC Approves State of the Art Technological Upgrade of 17 Dorniers of ICG Worth Rs 950 Crore

The Defence Acquisition Council (DAC) chaired by Raksha Mantri Smt Nirmala Sitharaman and accorded approval for the Mid Life Upgrade of 17 Dornier Aircraft of Indian Coast Guard (ICG) at an approximate cost of Rs. 950 crore. The upgrades will be carried out by M/s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL), the aircraft manufacturer of India.

ICG is also the nodal agency in India for maritime pollution response. The Coast Guard has a fleet of Dornier aircraft which play a pivotal role in maritime surveillance. In order to enhance the capabilities of the fleet, DAC accorded approval for upgradation of these aircraft with state-of-the-art technology, spares, Special Maintenance Tools (SMT) and Special Test Equipment (STE).

Defense Acquisition Council (DAC):

To counter corruption and speed up decision- making in military procurement, the government of India in 2001 decided to set up an integrated DAC. It is headed by the Defence Minister.

The objective of the DAC is to ensure expeditious procurement of the approved requirements of the Armed Forces, in terms of capabilities sought, and time frame prescribed, by optimally utilizing the allocated budgetary resources.

The DAC is responsible to give policy guidelines to acquisitions, based on long-term procurement plans. It also clears all acquisitions, which includes both imported and those produced indigenously or under a foreign license.

 

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China to sell 48 armed drones to Pakistan

China will sell 48 high-end armed drones to its “all-weather ally” Pakistan in what a military observer said will be the largest deal of its kind.

The cost of the major defense deal was not revealed.

Wing Loong II is a high-end reconnaissance, strike and multi-role endurance unmanned aerial system, capable of being fitted with air-to-surface weapons.

It is roughly equivalent to the American MQ-9 Reaper drone.

The drones will also be jointly manufactured by China and Pakistan, state-run Global Times reported. Last year, China reportedly sold to countries like the UAE and Egypt the Wing Loong II at an estimated $1 million per unit, reports said.

China is the largest supplier of the weapon system to the Pakistan Army. Both countries also jointly manufacture JF-Thunder a single engine multi-role combat aircraft.

The deal for the acquisition of the drones manufactured by Chengdu Aircraft Industrial (Group) Company was announced by Pakistan Air Force’s Sherdils Aerobatic Team on its official Facebook account on Sunday, the Global Times report reported without giving out details.

The Air Force academy aerobatics team announced that in the future, the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex Kamra and the Aviation Industry Corporation of China’s Chengdu Aircraft Industrial (Group) Company will jointly manufacture the drones, the report said.

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