December 13, 2017

Government considering developing own civilian aircraft: Official

The government is considering manufacturing civilian aircraft and would like to move ahead with the plan "very fast", a civil aviation ministry official said today.

The country's domestic aviation market is one of the fastest growing in the world and has registered high double digit growth for more than two years.

Many airlines are embarking on ambitious expansion plans and authorities are working on developing new airports to cater to the rising demand as well as boosting regional air connectivity.

"We are considering manufacturing our own civilian aircraft... definitely, the concept is there and we are looking for smaller aircraft like a 20-seater which can be used within the country and this also is supported by our policy of Make in India," said Shefali Juneja, Director at the Civil Aviation ministry.

Currently, aircraft are imported or taken on lease from overseas lessors.

"Developing our own civilian aircraft is something we are considering... and is something which we need to move forward very fast," she said.

She was speaking at the 'ASEAN-India Connectivity Summit' here.

In efforts to strengthen air connectivity between India and ASEAN nations, a civil aviation task force is being developed to encourage consultations between the countries.

Under the ASEAN-India cooperation framework, a joint working group is being set up and it would initially focus on safety and security aspects, besides air navigation services.

The first meeting of the joint working group is to be held in January 2018, Juneja said.

At present, there are no air services between India and four ASEAN countries -- Brunei, Cambodia, the Philippines and Lao-PDR.

Listing out the challenges in the India-ASEAN aviation market, Juneja also said there is "only one-sided operation by ASEAN carriers in India-Myanmar, India-Indonesia, India- Vietnam markets".

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has 10 members, including include Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Brunei.

The summit was jointly organised by industry body CII and ASEAN India Centre.


‘Contract for 36 Rafales include weapons suite superior to the earlier case … higher capability more apt for IAF’

As a fighter pilot with long experience, do you think Rafale fully meets India’s operational requirements?

I had the opportunity to fly the F-16 in the US, Gripen in Sweden and Eurofighter in the UK during official visits to these countries as chief of air staff. I also flew the Rafale in India during ‘Exercise Garuda’ with the French air force. These fighter aircraft are very impressive in their performance, equipped with state-of-the-art systems and weapons to execute operational tasks. It is difficult to choose one from the other and only experts can evaluate their capabilities against well-formulated specifications.

Rafale is a multi-role aircraft which can fully meet IAF’s operational requirements in the configuration that has been ordered. It is one of the best aircraft in the world in its class and was selected after a very competitive bidding process and due diligence. India has been able to obtain many add-ons that will substantially enhance combat capability of the aircraft and provide the IAF with technological and combat edge.

Government has claimed that the deal for 36 Rafales is superior in terms of weapons suite and other capabilities than the one negotiated earlier. Do you agree?

The contract for 36 Rafales includes weapons suite much superior to the earlier case and to many contemporary fighters. The weapons suite includes Meteor and variants of MICA (a weapons system) beyond visual range missiles. Considering national security requirements, higher capability of Rafale aircraft ordered now is more apt for IAF.

How do the Rafales for India compare with aircraft supplied to French air force or other air forces?

The Rafales for IAF will have several India specific enhancements, which are not present in Rafales operated by other countries. These capabilities pertain to enhancements in radar performance, advanced electronic warfare suite and ability to operate from high altitude airfields – unique to our terrain and climatic conditions.

There are allegations of violations of Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP)? Can you tell us about this intergovernmental agreement (IGA)?

DPP clearly allows procurements under IGA from friendly foreign countries and many procurements have been through IGA. Rules require cabinet approval before entering into agreement. The procurement process in MoD (ministry of defence) is well established and all the details are documented. I am aware that due approvals were taken in this case too and the IGA was signed only after approval of the CCS (cabinet committee on security).

It has been alleged that the agreement to procure 36 Rafales has caused loss to the exchequer.

The most important task of the price negotiation committee (PNC), which is a multi-disciplinary body of professionals with domain expertise, was to achieve a final price which had to be better than the previous Dassault Aviation proposal. A very detailed study was conducted and the PNC bargained hard. Cost comparisons are very complex and these have to be compared at the same datum. Most of the misconception on costs has resulted from comparing them with different base years, as also not having taken into consideration the significant differences in the deliverables. The current procurement costs in the IGA are better than the previous proposal. There were upfront cost reductions, and the IGA catered for better maintenance and weapons package.

Government has been accused of promoting the interests of an industrial group. How did Reliance ADAG come to be associated with the procurement?

The IGA was signed between two sovereign governments and no private individual, firm or entity was involved in the process from the Indian side.

Could another vendor have been brought in to ensure a competitive environment for price discovery and cost negotiation?

In the original MMRCA proposal, MoD had gone through a very competitive bidding and selection process. MoD used the available data on prices and other variables to conclude an agreement in the form of an IGA for the same aircraft. This was perhaps the best way to address the immediate critical shortages of IAF though it fell well short of our requirements.

Can you tell us how the deal marks an improvement, besides price, over what was being earlier negotiated?

First, all 36 aircraft will be delivered in flyaway condition, as against 18, in a shorter timeframe. Second, advanced training to both air crew and ground crew will be conducted over and above the original offer. Third, enhanced period of industrial support for maintenance of the fleet has been catered for. Fourth, the performance-based logistics covers two squadrons instead of one and the period could be extended to 12 years. Fifth, the contract caters for complete maintenance facilities at two independent locations, taking care of various theatres of operations.


India puts forward new plan to buy helicopters after ending talks with Lockheed

After suspending negotiations with Lockheed Martin in April over the price of 16 naval multirole helicopters, India’s Ministry of Defence has mooted a fresh plan for acquiring 24 helicopters for about $1.87 billion.

A high-priority global tender will now be floated instead to source the 24 helicopters off the shelf to meet a pressing need within the Indian Navy, according to an MoD official.

Negotiations with Lockheed were terminated following expiry of the price bid in March, and subsequently the tender was withdrawn in April, he said.

Lockheed Martin’s Sikorsky S-70B was selected over NHIndustries’ NH90 helicopter in 2011 in a global tender issued by the Indian Navy in 2009 for 16 naval utility helicopters at a cost of $1 billion.

The service asked the MoD in July to consider procuring the helicopters from the U.S. under the Foreign Military Sales program, a senior Indian Navy official said.

However, the request was turn down because Indian procurement procedures do not allow for single-supplier preference but instead prefer global competitions through which weapons or platforms are selected based on lowest price.

Commenting on delays in India’s defense procurements, a CEO of a foreign defense company, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “MoD must adhere to a strict timeline in selecting the platform and awarding [defense] contracts, otherwise it will lead to huge cost escalation and even the cancellation of the program itself.”

India’s ruling National Democratic Alliance is now kick-starting all major defense programs under the Strategic Partners policy, which is expected to enhance indigenization by cutting imports and boosting exports, according to a second MoD official.

Under this program, 123 naval multirole helicopters costing about $7 billion in the 9- to 12.5-ton categories will be manufactured by a domestic private company with technology transfer from an overseas helicopter original equipment manufacturer.

The helicopters will be built by a private company at a facility in India. The company will be selected though a separate, robust competition requiring technology collaboration with a foreign OEM.

However, no private Indian company has ever built a helicopter platform, but rather only supplied subsystems.

In the next three to four months, an expression of interest will be issued to several private companies including Bharat Forge Limited, Reliance Defence, Larsen & Toubro, Mahindra Aerospace, and Tata Advanced Systems. The company will be selected on its financial and technical merits, production track record, and infrastructure capabilities.

Likewise, one OEM will be selected based on the technology transfer offer and option for building indigenous technology, building an industrial ecosystem and providing training support.

Both the OEM and the strategic partner will be selected separately by the MoD.

The ministry has already received an initial response to an August request for information from foreign OEMs such as Lockheed Martin, Airbus Helicopters and Russian Helicopters, the second MoD official said. The final selection will take at least three to five years, and the helicopters will be rolled out in about 10 years.


Sweden offers to produce and export Gripen fighters from India

Reiterating Sweden's commitment to partner with India, Swedish Defence Secretary Jan Salestrand on Tuesday hinted that Sweden may offer to export its state-of-the-art Gripen fighter to the world from India.

In an exclusive interview with Times Now, Salestrand said that in case of a strategic cooperation with India on the Gripen fighter, Sweden "plans" to set up facilities and recruit personnel, who in turn can manufacture the aircraft from Indian soil. Salestrand's comments are significant on the backdrop of a push to Make in India by the present day government.

"They (SAAB- manufacturer of Gripen) plan to build a new plant here in India. They plan and recruit new personnel and set up a full facility. And I think that could be a good idea because it is easier then to get going. Probably, the first planes will be built in Sweden and quickly, the production could be done more or less in India," Salestrand told Times Now.

"We have some Gripen customers already, which we are happy. Brazil is one major customer that we will deliver 36 aircraft to within some years and hopefully, there would be another batch later on. So the more we will be in a very expensive and a technically advanced project like this, the better it will be for everyone. That remains to be seen. I can see that there is a great interest from a number of countries," he further said.

While the Indian government is likely to roll out a Request for Information (RFI) early next year, the Indian Air Force (IAF) has expressed an interest in the fighter which was in the competition to India's multirole fighter.

Sweden, it is learnt, has already submitted documents to the Defence Ministry reiterating its commitment to the project, Salestrand said that Sweden looks at India as a strategic partner and that the number of planes to be supplied is "totally up to India".

"As I understand, it is a matter of more than 100 planes in the longer run. That remains to be seen," he said. "We see it as equal level (partnership) and we will try to share as much as we can," he added when asked about the Transfer of Technology.


December 12, 2017

Wrapped In Secrecy: New Report Reveals India’s Push For Building A Nuclear Submarine Fleet

India’s costliest defence project — a Rs 90,000 crore push to develop and construct a fleet of nuclear-powered and nuclear-armed submarines monitored directly by National Security Adviser Ajit Doval — has been making progress away from media glare.
The effort has borne fruit in recent years in the form of INS Arihant – India’s first indigenously built SSBN – a submarine that is powered by a nuclear reactor and is equipped with nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles. The second Arihant class submarine, INS Arighat, was launched by Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman during a low profile ceremony at the Ship Building Centre (SBC) drydock in Visakhapatnam on 19 November, a report by Sandeep Unnithan of India Today has revealed.

A high-profile launch of Arighat, a move that could have helped the government given elections in Gujarat, was rejected by the Prime Minister’s Office to maintain a high level of secrecy, the report has revealed. Arighat would undergo extensive sea trials for three years before being commissioned into the Indian Navy.
Two other SSBNs, which are still unnamed, will be launched by 2020 and 2022. The two boats will displace 1,000 tonnes more than the Arihant class and will be equipped with eight ballistic missiles or twice the Arihant's missile load. The design was tweeted a decade ago to make space for additional missiles after the then finance minister P Chidambaram questioned the utility of having just four nuclear-tipped missiles on a boat worth billions.
The nuclear reactor for these submarines has been developed by the Atomic Research Centre, and the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) has developed submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) to arm the boats.
It doesn't end here. On 1 December, Navy Chief Admiral Sunil Lanba revealed that a Rs 60,000 crore project to build six indigenous nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSNs) had been kicked-off by the Navy. SSNs are conventionally armed submarines powered by nuclear reactors. Unlike the SSBNs, these boats do not carry nuclear-tipped missiles. Design work for the submarines, displacing around 6,000 tonnes, is currently underway at the submarine design centre in Gurgaon.
The Navy is also working on a new series of 13,500-tonne ballistic missile submarines. The boats, built under this project, will be capable of carrying 12 nuclear-tipped missiles, compared to four carried by the Arihant-class submarines. Submarines developed under this project, the report says, will be on par with those fielded by the five permanent members of the United Nations. To be built at least a decade from now, the submarines will have 80 per cent. indigenous component.
India is, therefore, working on three different nuclear submarine projects at the same time. Although the effort behind the projects is indigenous with 60 per cent of the component for the Arihant-class being sourced from local manufacturers, the Navy has benefited from close design and technical cooperation with Russia. New Delhi is currently in talks with Moscow to lease another Akula-class submarine to replace the existing INS Chakra after its lease ends in 2022. INS Chakra, having suffered damage in an incident earlier this year, is currently non-operational.
Another important development comes in the form of Project Varsha. The project involves the construction of a nuclear submarine base for the Navy, reportedly at the cost of Rs 30,000 crore by 2022. The base will have concrete pens to securely house one of India’s costliest and most-advanced defence platforms.
Induction of these submarines, many of which are expected to be in active service by the end of the next decade, will strengthen India’s nuclear triad – the ability to launch a nuclear attack from land, air and sea. Although the naval variant of the triad is currently operational with INS Arihant in service, it is not as strong as that of China’s. The People’s Liberation Army Navy has at least four SSBNs in service.
The push for nuclear submarines also assumes greater importance as India has reportedly decided to hold back on its plan to build a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. A platform that is powered by nuclear reactors can remain operational for an extended period without breaks. Therefore, if India decides to have a conventional aircraft carrier, its reach would remain limited. Nuclear-powered submarines will be the only platforms that would provide the Indian Navy with the option to reach far-off waters.
Additionally, nuclear propulsion helps submarines move faster underwater, making them difficult to locate and track.
While the platforms are being designed and built, India has also been working on the armament. The DRDO has made progress on the K-series missiles, named after former president A P J Abdul Kalam. As part of the series, DRDO has developed K-15 (also called B-05) missile with a range of 750-km. While the K-15 has entered series production, the next missile in the series – K-4 – is in the trial phase.The fourth test of the K-4, which has a range of around 3,500 km, is expected sometime in December, the India Today report says. This will be followed by tests of K-5 missile, a 5,000 km SLBM. Work on the fourth missile in this series – K-6 – began at DRDO's Hyderabad-based Advanced Naval Systems in February. The missile is reported to have a range of 6,000 km.


India-Russia Talks on S-400 Air Defence System at 'Profound Stage', Contract Anytime: Russian Official

India had announced in October last year a deal on the Triumf air defence systems from Russia, worth over $5 billion and collaborate in making four state-of-the-art frigates besides setting up a joint production facility for making Kamov helicopters.
 India and Russia are likely to sign a contract soon on sale of Russian S-400 Triumf air defence system, a senior Russian official said, describing discussions on the deal to be at a "very profound stage".

Presently discussions are going on the exact number of S 400 Triumf air defence systems that will be bought by India, according to Viktor N Kladov, director for international cooperation and regional policy of Rostec, a state-owned Russian defence and industrial group.

Asked when will the contract be signed, Kladov said, "As soon as they prepare the contract it will be signed...I cannot give you the time as I don't know but anytime in future because the two teams are working very hard".

"It is being discussed and it is still at a very profound stage. Technical details are being discussed. The two teams are working very hard on negotiations. It is a very sophisticated system, lots of technical details are to be looked into.

"It also includes pricing, training, transfer of technologies, setting up of command and control centers. Even if we supply it now you can't use it as it will take two years to train your personnel only then you can use it," Kladov told PTI.

India had announced in October last year a deal on the Triumf air defence systems from Russia, worth over $5 billion and collaborate in making four state-of-the-art frigates besides setting up a joint production facility for making Kamov helicopters.

The deals were announced following talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) Summit held in Goa last year.

The S-400 Triumf long-range air defence missile system has the capability to destroy incoming hostile aircraft, missiles and even drones at ranges of up to 400 km.

India and Russia have been in talks for over a year for the purchase of at least five systems of S-400 that will be a game changer in the region. It is capable of firing three types of missiles, creating a layered defence, and simultaneously engaging 36 targets.

While talking about the India-Russia joint venture contract for production of 200 Kamov 226T helicopters for the Indian armed forces, Kladov said he is hopeful that Russia would start supplying helicopters by the end of 2018, if the contract is signed in the beginning of 2018.

"I hope you (India) start receiving the first batch of helicopters by the end of 2018, if the contract is signed in January-February of 2018. But if the contract is signed at the end of 2018, then you will receive it in 2019. People are asking us when the contract will be signed but it is no longer our business, it is the business of the joint venture team. It is the joint venture team which is looking into it, which is largely controlled by the Indian side," Kladov said.

CEO of Russian Helicopters Andrey Boginisky earlier this month had said the contract for 200 KAMOV 226T is expected to be signed in the first quarter of 2018.

Kladov also said that Rostec will participate in the tender exercise of 111 helicopters for the Indian navy and is "hopeful" of winning it.

While speaking on the civil helicopter sector in India, Kladov said the Indian civil helicopter market "is underestimated even as the demand is huge...We have several helicopters to offer for the civil helicopter sector".

He said Russia will start producing MI-17A2 civil helicopters next year and will target the Indian civil helicopter market.

Kladov said Russia is willing to cooperate with India in order to develop single engine fighter aircraft with India.

"Russia don't produce single engine fighter aircraft. We have only twin engine aircraft to offer. But if India chooses to develop its own aircraft and if India is looking for an international cooperation to design such an aircraft we are willing to cooperate," he said.

Kladov said the strategy of Rostec is to achieve 50:50 by 2025 in terms of military:civil cooperation with India.

"Presently the share of military-civil cooperation with India is 70:30 but by 2025 we plan to achieve 50:50 in military: civil cooperation," he said.


Chinese Diplomat: Expect War if US Sends Navy Ships to Taiwan

One of China’s top diplomats to the US warned Washington that Beijing would invade Taiwan should the US ever send a Navy ship to the island nation, which China considers to be a wayward province.
Li Kexin, a minister with the Chinese Embassy to the United States, said during an embassy event on Friday that he had told American officials that China would activate their Anti-Secession Law if US naval vessels were sent to the Taiwan Strait.
The law, passed in 2005, denies Taiwan's statehood and outlines Beijing's methods to make the unification of the two Chinas a reality. But the bill also mentions "non-peaceful action" (that being warfare) if China believes that all possibility of a bloodless unification has been lost.o Li, the deployment of US Navy vessels would signal just such a thing. "The day that a US Navy vessel arrives in Kaohsiung is the day that our People's Liberation Army unifies Taiwan with military force," Li told Chinese media, referring to Taiwan's largest port.
His words were echoed in an editorial that ran in a Chinese newspaper, the Global Times, owned by the Chinese Communist Party and often used to informally express the views of Beijing. "The Chinese mainland has never given up the option of Taiwan reunification by force, which is clear to people across the Taiwan Strait," the editorial read.
"Li's words have sent a warning to Taiwan and drew a clear red line. If Taiwan attempts to hold an independence referendum or other activities in pursuit of de jure 'Taiwan independence,' the PLA will undoubtedly take action."

The Taiwanese Foreign Ministry slammed Li's words on Saturday, accusing China of using threats and coercion when they claim to desire peaceful reconciliation. "These methods show a lack of knowledge about the real meaning of the democratic system and how a democratic society works," the ministry wrote in a statement.
Formally speaking, Taiwan — the formal name of which is the Republic of China — and China are still one country, as Taipei considers the mainland to be wayward provinces just as Beijing sees the island as a renegade territory. However, an independence movement consisting of left-wing parties that want to declare Taiwan a de jure sovereign state continues to gain traction on the island.
The Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) that currently controls the presidency and unicameral legislature of Taiwan is one such party that supports de jure Taiwanese independence.
Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen has made her support for something like an independence referendum ambiguous. She claims that her ideal is to maintain peace with China and the security of Taiwan, but she also has refused to affirm the 1992 consensus — a semi-official agreement between the two Chinas that there was only one undivided China, although unsurprisingly neither side could agree which China was the real one.

Tsai's refusal has led to a significant degradation of cross-Strait relations since she took office in 2016. In July, China entered Taipei's air defense identification zone with their sole aircraft carrier, the Liaoning. Later that month, Beijing buzzed Taiwanese airspace with fighter jets.
The administration of US President Donald Trump has seen a strengthening of ties between the US and Taiwan, often a sticking point in Washington-Beijing relations. Trump was the first president since Jimmy Carter to directly speak with the Taiwanese president, and in September the US Congress passed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act which authorized naval cooperation between the US and Taiwanese militaries.
In 1958 and 1996, the US deployed naval vessels to the Taiwan Strait to defend the island during periods of sky-high tensions between Beijing and Taipei. Neither incident ended in World War III.

India quietly launches second SSBN

Indian Defence Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has announced the launch of the second indigenously designed Arihant-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) on order for the Indian Navy (IN).

Official sources told Jane’s that the launch of Arighat , which took place during a low-key ceremony held at the Ship Building Centre (SBC) at Visakhapatnam on 19 November, entailed flooding the dry dock housing the SSBN to enable it to float into the surrounding waters for additional fitment ahead of its commissioning in 2020-21.

India has already started groundwork to develop its next successor with the development of next-generation Ballistic Missile Submarine. Arighat will be succeeded in the dry dock by two similar SSBNs that have been temporarily designated S4 and S4*.

S4 and S4 will be armed with K-4 and K-5 SLBMs. They will be India’s Second line of SSBN by the time all 6 Nuclear Submarines are operational.


Government looks for tech to ground rogue drones

As India readies to allow use of drones in its skies, including for commercial purposes, the aviation ministry has started parleys with companies to identify a technology that can bring down rogue drones.

Aviation secretary RN Choubey held a meeting with technology solutions providers in the last week of November to discuss modes available to neutralise a drone in case it is not confirming to norms of flight, a ministry official said. "There is a technological solution available to neutralise drones," the official told ETon condition of anonymity.

"This solution blocks the link between the operator of drone on the ground and the drone, leading to immediate fall of the drone." Such solutions would be provided to the agencies tasked to secure airports and other vital installations across the country, the official said.

Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) early last month announced a draft policy for drones. It has categorised drones into five segments on the basis of weight — from 250 grams to over 150 kilograms.

Drones will not be allowed to operate within 5 km of airports and New Delhi's Vijay Chowk area, where several important government establishments including the Parliament building are located, according to the policy. Also, drones cannot also be operated within 50 km of international borders and within 500 metre radius of strategic locations notified by the home ministry and of military installations.

As drones are expected to be extensively used for commercial purposes, the global airline industry is also looking for technological solutions to neutralise drones.

International Air Transport Association (IATA) will release a document on anti-drone technology, identifying the options and sharing considerations early next year, according to Rob Eagles, the association's director for air traffic management and infrastructure.

"There are various different antidrone technologies, including detection and disablement of unmanned vehicles, available," Eagles told ET. "However, some anti-drone technologies disrupt the GPS signal of the unmanned vehicle and can also impact the aircraft's connectivity, which needs to be an assessed appropriately," he said.


India's admission into Wassenaar Arrangement may be ticket to NSG, key to decreasing world's nuclear stockpile

India’s entry into the Wassenaar Arrangement as its 42nd member last week on the heels of its joining the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) in June 2016, is doubtlessly a feather in the cap of Indian diplomacy and a recognition of our growing international clout.

The global Wassenaar Arrangement (WA) regulates transfer and access to conventional weapons and dual use technologies. India’s membership is expected to facilitate high technology tie-ups with Indian industry and ease access to high tech items for our defence and space programmes.

For China, which has been consistently stalling India’s bid to join the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) on grounds that this country is not a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), and for Pakistan which has stakes in stalling India’s bid, this is a huge rebuff. Both are not part of the Wassenaar Arrangement and of the Australian Group on non-proliferation which India is hopeful of being admitted into next year.

While there is a possibility that China will further accentuate its opposition to India’s bid to join the NSG, irritated as it is by India’s entry into the Wassenaar Arrangement, there is also an outside chance that India may strike a deal with China in the long run to help it gain entry into the Wassenaar Arrangement in return for Beijing shedding its opposition to India’s entry into NSG. China has been unsuccessfully bidding to joining the Wassenaar Arrangement because of its strong history of proliferation which most nations fear and resent.

Joining NSG is, understandably, India’s ultimate goal on the nuclear stage and failure to do so would be hard on this country but membership of three of the four groups for nuclear supplies would doubtlessly strengthen India’s access to high tech items for our defence and space programmes. Since many countries are common to NSG and to Wassenaar Arrangement and the Australian group, India would be in a better position to push its case for membership of NSG with them to thwart Chinese designs at least in the long run.

As it stands, India’s impeccable non-proliferation record, despite this country not being a signatory to the NPT, gives it a distinct advantage. There is a global recognition of India's responsible behaviour as a nuclear weapons state and its potential contribution to the maintenance of nuclear norms.

Consequently, it is not difficult for India to convince other countries of India’s mature sense of responsibility and to trade with them in high tech items. The membership of WA would create the grounds for realignment of India in the export control policy framework of fellow-members, including eligibility for certain licensing exemptions.

India's membership to MTCR last year was a passport to acquiring vital equipment for its space programme and its ability to source high-end missile systems and technologies as well as surveillance drones. The Wassenaar membership gives India an important voice in shaping global response to regional and global security developments, advances in technology and market trends.

There are several reasons for India to be so keen on NSG membership. The dominant one is that NSG membership can allow India access to sustainable supply of nuclear fuel at competitive prices thereby making it possible to speed up implementation of stalled nuclear projects. At the same time, access to technologies can help India to fast forward its thorium use programme towards its civil nuclear energy production. Besides, India could also import reprocessing technologies, which are critical for a three stage nuclear programme.

There can be little doubt that NSG membership could fast forward signing of civil nuclear deals with Australia and Japan, both countries whose current regimes are well disposed towards India and which have major business stakes in opening up to India. What has been holding up progress with them is the rigid non-proliferation stands of these countries even though they are convinced of India’s peace credentials.

It goes without saying that membership of NSG could allow India to be a part of the decision making process regarding supply of nuclear technology. It can later put its foot forward with a demand to bring down nuclear stockpiles all over the world and in turn make its neighbourhood safe too.

While the chances of China coming round to a deal with India to soften its stand on admitting India into NSG in return for India help in Beijing finding acceptance in the WA are remote, no harm would be done if New Delhi pursues this course doggedly.

Simultaneously, India must pursue vigorously to convince member-states of Wassenaar Arrangement and of the Australian Group (after India is admitted into that group) to trade in high tech items with New Delhi in pursuit of its civil nuclear programme and to not discriminate against it with regard to nuclear fuel supplies.

If this country manages to fulfill its needs for which it is pursuing entry into NSG, who knows, someday its requirement to be admitted into NSG may cease to be as critical as it is today.


December 11, 2017

Interview with Kieth Webster: “India is a US defence partner on par with NATO allies”

Keith Webster handled US-India defence relations for several years as a senior Pentagon official in the Obama administration. Now a Senior Vice President with the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF), he talks to Ajai Shukla about the trajectory of the defence relationship.
Q.Why has the US designated India as a “major defence partner” (MDF)?
In the US system, this was a very significant step. In May 2016, during the waning months of [former President Barack] Obama’s administration, we began debating in the Pentagon the need to cement the solid defence relationship we had achieved. We decided the best way to “immortalise” the relationship was to bring in the term “major defence partner” into the June 2016 joint statement between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Obama.
At a meeting with [Defence Secretary] Ash Carter that was attended by every political appointee in the Pentagon, I was the only career official in that office. I told them: “In nine months, I will probably be the only person here who will still be in this building (the Pentagon). I need this relationship formalised.” We proposed the MDP designation, and the Modi government accepted putting it into the [Modi-Obama] joint statement.
Later in 2016, there was a short exchange of letters between Ash Carter and [Defence Minister] Manohar Parrikar on what MDP broadly meant. And then, MDP was mentioned in our National Defense Authorization Act of 2017, signed by Barack Obama in December 2016. That means the legislation is in place on the US side.
Q.        What does MDP mean in practical terms for India?
While both governments have acknowledged MDP, we need to see how India defines it. When Secretary [Jim] Mattis returned from India in September, he said: “We need to work on this definition [of MDP].” I spoke to Secretary Tillerson about this when he was here in October. So the Trump administration will flesh this out with the Modi government: what exactly will MDP be?
Q.        As a MDP, where does India stand in the hierarchy of US defence partners?
The US has a pyramid of trust, based on which we part with military capabilities and technologies. Naturally, the best goes to the US military alone. Next, at the top of the pyramid are the allies that fight alongside us the most. That would be the “Five Eyes” [an intelligence-sharing alliance between the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand]. One level below are the other allies who fight alongside us, which comprises NATO – “Old NATO”, as opposed to “New NATO”. India hasn’t figured in that pyramid of trust because we never fought as allies. But we are now friends. So we have moved India up, policy-wise, to near the top of the pyramid. Not to the pinnacle, but near the top of the pyramid.
Q.        Below the Five Eyes, but at par with older NATO members?
India’s status is consistent with members of NATO, other than the Five Eyes.
Q.        What about the category of “major non-NATO allies” (MNNA), which the US has designated Pakistan?
That status was unacceptable to India because there are 15-16 nations in that category, including Pakistan. We needed to do something unique for India, which is more than what we’ve done for Pakistan.
Q.        Why would India accept that its designation is above Pakistan’s in the hierarchy of allies?
Because our actions will prove it. Look at the F-16, the Block 70 as we call it now. That is well above your neighbour’s F-16s. What we are proposing for India reflects its status… I don’t believe Pakistan would be sold the F-16 Block 70.
Q.        What benefits does MDP provide India?
First, in transferring defence capabilities, India will be on par with NATO allies. Second, when we talk about “Make in India”, we can now transfer more critical technologies to Indian industries than without MDP categorisation.
Q.        Delhi worries that the Trump administration will be more transactional and focused on defence sales rather than a technology partnership…
In February this year, I too wondered: How do we reconcile “Make America Great Again” and “Make in India”? The good news is the Trump administration has reconciled that, specific to India. It fully backs everything the Obama administration proposed to India, including the exhaustive preparatory work been done on F-16 and F/A-18 “Make in India”.
The Heritage Foundation, which is close to the Trump administration, wrote on why it makes sense to support “Make in India” on the F-16, even though much of the supply would shift to India. The argument was: “An F-16 line in India is better than shutting it down. If an Indian line keeps twenty American suppliers in business, that’s better than zero.”
Q.        Over the last decade, the US has concluded a wave of arms sales worth over $15 billion. What do you think the next wave will consist of?
Hopefully, the F-16 and F/A-18. Realistically, even one of those would be huge. It would be a huge symbolic gesture of trust. A fighter aircraft is a power projection capability. Transport aircraft and helicopters are great, but to take that next step – to trust America or not to supply a power projection platform – and have the confidence that the US would be there through its service life, it would be hugely symbolic.
Q.        Would there be negative repercussions if India chose not to buy a US fighter?
Not really, but there would be huge disappointment. In the Pentagon I spent 30 per cent of my time on India, much of it pre-positioning the government approvals needed for making the F-16 and F/A-18 in India. We don’t normally do that. We normally require governments to request for a [weapons] platform and then we make the release decisions.
Q.        Would you call the Quadrilateral a step towards an alliance?
I think it’s huge. This was discussed for the past 3-4 years, and the fact that the Indian government has allowed this to be publicly discussed, no matter how it’s presented, is a huge step for me.
Q.        Is militarizing the Quadrilateral through Malabar an essential next step?
It would be a good, positive next step. We are not allies and, in our system, we have to have a reason for why we would transfer cutting edge technology to anyone. With allies, there’s a reason. But with India, what we have used to justify moving forward is cooperating on maritime domain awareness, search and rescue, and humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.
Q.        The co-development and co-manufacturing mantras; how are they going to work, given the huge asymmetry between US and Indian defence industries?
Indian industry will have to learn how to: crawl, walk, and then run. It has technology absorption challenges, as there are with anyone that starts this journey. You have to start somewhere, build a work force, build infrastructure… It’s not insurmountable.
Q.        When you talk co-development, you assume both sides have something concrete to bring to the table. In the Indian case, this is not always so…
That is true today. But it’s possible five or ten years from now. We don’t have to do co-development on Day One. You would [first] do some co-assembly, co-production and then graduate to co-development.
Q.        With close cooperation happening in the Joint Working Group on aircraft carriers, will the two navies be at the forefront of the defence partnership?
Yes, given the cooperation on aircraft carriers and maritime domain awareness. Also the Indian Air Force, because they fly [the C-17 and C-130 transport aircraft and will fly the Apache and Chinook helicopters soon.
Q.        Are there no lines of convergence between the two armies? In India, the army is the most important and influential service…
There is the M777 ultra-light howitzer [that the Indian Army has bought]. Maybe some day the Indian army will have the Javelin [anti-tank missile]. It is possible the Indian army gets some Apaches [attack helicopters] from the second tranche that has been ordered. There is an Apache Users Group globally that brings armies together. There are reports the Indian army is seeking new armoured vehicles; maybe there are some opportunities for cooperation there. I would argue there are promising lines of cooperation with the Indian army too.
 Ajai Shukla

December 7, 2017

PAF ordered to shoot down US drones invading Pakistani airspace: Air Chief Sohail Aman

Chief of Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman has said that the PAF has been given orders to shoot down any drones, including those of the US, if they violate the country’s airspace.

Talking to an audience in Islamabad, Aman said that the attack on Kamra Air Base was the biggest and most unfortunate tragedy in the PAF’s history.

“We suffered a lot of losses in the incident but did not lose our morale. In fact, we have continued the fight against extremism with unflinching vigor and resolve since then, transforming the PAF into a much stronger force.”

Talking about the terror threat emanating from Afghanistan, the air chief was of the opinion that where dozens of countries in the world had failed, the PAF had been successful in bringing about peace.

“Even Indian defence officials attest to our successes on the battlefield,” Aman boasted.

The PAF chief also informed the gathering that in the attack on Kamra Air Base, terrorists managed to destroy one PAF SAB plane completely, and also inflicted considerable damage upon another.

“An international organisation wanted $287 million to to cover the material damage that the PAF sustained in the attack, but Pakistan’s bright, young scientists and engineers added two new, fully-functioning fighter planes to our fleet at a fraction of the cost,” Aman said.

“After the attack on Kamra Air Base, not only did we set out to make the PAF better and stronger, but we were also determined to guide the nation towards self-sufficiency. Now, Pakistan will make its own fighter jets.”

He also stressed that there was no shortage of talent in the country, but rather that the keen minds present here needed a platform on which to showcase their exceptional talents to the world.

Discussing security issues at large, the PAF chief noted that the region the country was based in was beset by different challenges and difficulties at the moment.

“Pakistan is unfortunate in the sense that our neighbours are trying to harm us. India, being our sworn enemy, was behind the attack on Kamran Air Base. What do terrorists want from PAF planes?” he asked.

We cannot, though, change our neighbours, Aman lamented.

“No outside power can engineer a democracy inside a country, nor is democracy the solution to every problem. Examples in Iraq and Libya are in front of us. After the fall of Qaddafi and Saddam, what happened in these countries? Did they get democracy?” Sohail Aman said while talking about Middle Eastern affairs.