Terror at the border

The terrorist attack on civilians and a police station in Gurdaspur district might have been the first such serious incident in Punjab in the last two decades, but it is of a piece with the recent violence from across the border in the Jammu region. The border district is situated close to Jammu, and the attackers would have found it a soft target. Any part of India close to the Jammu region could just as easily have been their target. After security was stepped up in the border areas of Jammu and Kashmir, militants operating from across the border appear to have been forced to take other routes close to Jammu to carry out assaults. Of late, terrorists have targeted not only army camps but also civilians in Hindu-majority Jammu. Although Pakistan-based militants would like to keep the focus on Jammu and Kashmir, any attack close to the Jammu region would serve their purpose. The Uri-Jalandhar highway runs close to the border with Pakistan at Pathankot near Gurdaspur, and provides access to the Jammu region from a section of the border that is not as heavily guarded as stretches in Jammu and Kashmir. If the Gurdaspur attack signifies anything, it is that militants are ready to shift their targets, and make a mockery of India’s efforts to secure the border districts.
For Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, the immediate challenge it seemed was to counter the impression that the attack had something to do with the demand for Khalistan. That the militants were suicide attackers who were intent on fighting till the very end, unlike the Khalistani militants in the 1980s who predominantly adopted hit-and-run tactics, allowed him to assert that the attack was not an indication of any revival of terrorism in the State. Also, the attackers were reported to have shouted Islamist slogans. However, irrespective of these facts, intelligence agencies have been warning of a rise in pro-Khalistan activity. Last month, the Research and Analysis Wing had sent a report to the Union Home Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office on the “Khalistan liberation movement” finding support in Pakistan, as also in the U.S., the U.K., Germany, France and the Maldives. The government needs to take threats from this quarter also seriously. The dastardly attack in Gurdaspur is a major setback to the confidence-building process initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif during their meeting in Ufa earlier this month. There can be no let-up on India’s part in countering acts of aggression from across the border. But attacks such as the latest one should not deter efforts to engage Pakistan in talks. It is crucial that Pakistan be made to realise the futility of nurturing militants on its soil as a strategy against India.

India and the Satellite Launch Market (IDSA , GS paper 3 , Defence ,Prelims )

The successful launch of the PSLV-C28/DMC3 on July 10, 2015 takes the number of satellites launched by India for foreign clients to 45. The July 10 launch was the 30th flight of the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV); of these, 29 have been successful. This speaks volumes about the quality of this vehicle, which is essentially used for launching satellites that weigh less than two tonnes into Low Earth Orbit (between 300 and 800 km above the earth’s surface).
On its 30th flight, the PSLV placed five satellites in orbit for Surrey Satellite Technology Limited (SSTL), United Kingdom. The overall lift of mass of the mission was 1440 kg, the heaviest commercial mission ever undertaken by Antrix Corporation Limited, the commercial arm of ISRO which was established in 1992. Previously, in June 2014, the PSLV-C23 mission had carried satellites weighing 765 kg for foreign clients. All these satellites are placed in a Sun-Synchronous Orbit (SSO, approximately 600 km above the earth’s surface). In the past, ISRO has launched much heavier payloads into SSO. For example, in April 2012, PSLV C-19 placed in orbit India’s radar satellite RISAT-1, which weighed 1858 kg. From the commercial point of view, every kilogramme of weight adds to the cost of the launch, with a 1440 kg payload earning higher revenue than a 765 kg payload. The first satellite ever launched by the PSLV for a foreign client was for Germany in 1999. The German satellite weighed 45 kg. Now, Antrix has also bagged a contract to launch a 800 kg German satellite called Environmental Mapping and Analysis Program (EnMAP).
Along with satellite launching services, Antrix also provides various other services on commercial terms such as satellite building, transponders for broadcasting and telecommunication purposes, remote sensing data and other support services. Among these, providing launching services is unique given that only ten countries in the world have rocket launching capabilities. Of these countries, the US, Russia, EU, Japan, China and India make their services available commercially. (Other countries like North and South Korea, Iran, etc. have only rudimentary launching capabilities). Private companies are also trying to make inroads into the satellite launch business. Presently, the US-based Space X is providing such services.
The satellite launch business has two basic categories: launching satellites into LEO, with such satellites usually belonging to less than two tonnes weight category; and, launching three to five tonne satellites, normally designed for communications purposes, into the Geostationary Orbit (36,000 km above the earth’s surface).
The following table presents the salient details of the 45 satellites launched by ISRO for foreign clients so far:
Satellite Category Number of Satellites Remarks
1 to 10k g (nano) 20 Multiple utility, University students to Military
11 to 100 kg (micro) 13 Scientific inquiry
101 to 500 kg (mini) 10 Remote sensing purposes
501 to 1000 kg (medium) 02 Remote sensing/Weather
Most of these satellites carried by ISRO to space were launched as an appendage to various Indian missions. The total of weight of the first 35 satellites launched by India is 2355.2 kg; taking all 45 satellites into account, this figure reaches 4560.2 kg. India’s latest two missions carried more than 2000 kg of weight, making them commercially viable. To earn decent revenue, India needs to increase dedicated commercial missions. It need not remain content with carrying nano and micro satellites. There is a need to device a business model to place various categories of satellites in LEO. However, it needs to be emphasised here that nano and micro satellites are becoming increasingly popular.    
Till date, India has launched satellites for a total of 19 countries. The global distribution of India’s clientele appears to be skewed, however. India has mainly launched satellites for European customers. A total of eight satellites have been launched for Asian states and one each for African and Latin American clients. India is proposing to launch a SAARC satellite in 2016, indicating that it is exploring the possibility of using satellite technology as a foreign policy tool. In the recent past, China has launched satellites for Pakistan and Sri Lanka, while Afghanistan has purchased a European satellite. India needs to expand its space footprint over Asia.
At present, the global satellite launch market is entering an exciting phase. The entry of private players in particular is making competition stiffer. For many years, the space agencies of Russia, US and the European Union have been at the forefront of the space launch business. Space launches being a risky and expensive business, states have always been at the forefront of investment. Even the growth of the space industry has been possible mainly because of state support. Private enterprises like Boeing, Space X and others, also get considerable support from NASA, the US space agency. For India to make further inroads into the global launch industry, there are two immediate requirements: the design of the PSLV needs to be shared with the Indian private industry and, in future, commercial launches should be handled by them (ISRO already has plans to this effect); and India needs to develop more launching sites so that more launches in a year could be undertaken.
During the year 2014 Russia, the US and China have been responsible for almost 80 per cent of global launch activity (both state-specific and commercial launches). In 2014, Russia launched 36 rockets carrying satellites, while the US and China had 23 and 16 rocket launches, respectively. India averages around three rocket launches per year (both in 2014 and 2013 India had carried out three launches). Today, many countries are keen to have their own satellites. India has a great track record with a proven launch capability and hence becomes a choice for these countries. Also, there are unconfirmed reports suggesting that India provides launch services at about 75 per cent of the price charged by the space agencies of other countries. Hence, getting business is not an issue. But the real challenge lies in developing the requisite infrastructure.
During the last two decades China has shown astonishing progress in the space arena, although it has moved only slowly in the commercial launch services sector. Its first satellite launch for a foreign client occurred in 1985. Yet, it has launched only 46 foreign satellites so far. China has been using its launch expertise more for strategic and diplomatic (read energy and minerals) rather than commercial reasons. For instance, in South Asia, China has been helping Pakistan; and in Latin America and Africa, it has made inroads by assisting Venezuela and Nigeria.
Further, it needs to be noted that China’s hands are tied when it comes to attracting European and US customers because of its uneven launch record. It has been providing launch services to foreign clients through the China Great Wall Industry Corp since the 1990s and uses the Long March 3 rocket for the purpose. During the early 1990s, some US firms were using Chinese launch services. There were some launch failures and particularly after the failure of the Long March 3B rocket, an enquiry was ordered. The enquiry led to evidence that a US-based company M/S Loral & Hughes had committed a serious export control violation; Great Wall Industry had received sensitive technology with military applications during the course of providing satellite launch services to Loral & Hughes. In 1998, the US placed a ban on US firms using Chinese launch services.The US also had suspicion that Great Wall Industry had supplied the Iranian military with dual-use components that could be used in the Iranian missile programme. Although the US had lifted the sanctions imposed upon the Great Wall Industry on June 19, 2008, an element of caution continues to hamper the use of Chinese space launch vehicles.
Based on various reports about the performance of the global space industry during the last few years, it has been observed that broadly the US has around a 40 per cent share of the global launching services market (USD 2 to 2.4 billion per year), Europe accounts for 25 per cent, and Russia 20 per cent. Countries like China and India have very less share of the launching services market, two to three per cent or even less. Europe controls about 60 per cent of the market in the category of heavy satellite launches, thanks to the successful French enterprise Ariane Space. India also heavily depends on this agency to launch its communication satellites (one such launch costs about USD 85 to 90 million, Rs. 500 core). The entry of Space X is expected to change the profit calculus of this market.    
India is yet to make its Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) operational. Hence, it is likely to take some more years for India to develop and demonstrate expertise in launching heavy satellites. At present, entry into the heavy satellite launch market appears to be a distant dream for India.
Euroconsult, a global consulting firm specializing in space markets, published a detailed forecast in 2014 for the coming decade. According to this forecast, 1,155 satellites could be built and launched through 2023. In the commercial space sector, the forecast anticipates a total of 350 satellite launches over the decade, with these satellites equally divided between the geostationary and lower altitude orbits.This means approximately 175 satellites are out for grabs for the launching industry in the LEO category. The following statistics present actual figures about a particular category of satellites launched (civil+military+commercial) in the last few years. In particular, the figures for the years 2013 and 2014 indicate that the market for small satellites could be much above the forecasted figure.
Year Nano/micro 1 to 50 kg
2009 26
2010 25
2011 20
2012 36
2013 92
2014 158
In recent years, many states as well as private players have started showing interest in developing Cubsats. This category of satellites weigh between one and 1.3 kg and their volume is exactly one litre (10 cm cube). They could be said to belong to the group of nanosats (1 to 10 kg) or Picosats (0.1 to 1 kg). Some research is also underway on another category of satellites called Femtosat (weighing 0.01 to 0.1 kg). Although the small category market is likely to grow, there is no separate launch vehicle available to launch these satellites. While initially many of these satellites could find applicability mainly in the military realm, simultaneously the commercial market is also likely to grow.
In collaboration with private industry, agencies like NASA are trying to develop a low cost, reliable, on-demand, routine space access vehicle. Their broad idea is to develop a Nano-Micro Satellite Launch Vehicle (NMSLV) to carry satellites weighing approximately 20 kg to LEO.Presently, the concept of NMSLV is under research.
China has not yet displayed much interest in cubsats.However, it is developing a new rocket named Kuaizhou (fast boat). This is a mobile, solid-fuel, space launch vehicle that can launch a 400 to 430 kg payload to approximately 500 km in SSO. Already two successful launches by this rocket launcher have taken place during the last two years.This rocket has the capability to launch satellites from a mobile platform. Investment in small satellite launchers take China closer to ideas like ‘launch on demand’, which has a larger strategic significance.
India has been launching satellites for foreign clients for 15 years. Yet, it is likely to take some more time for it to establish itself as a serious player in the commercial launch market field. In the coming few years, India would have to concentrate on the market for the launch of less than 2 tonne category satellites into LEO. Today, India has a reliable technology available for launching such satellites. But there is no matching infrastructure to obtain larger commercial benefits. Present trend indicates that the market for launching of cube/nano/micro satellites is likely to surge. It is important that ISRO takes a conscious decision to develop a new rocket for launching small satellites. Any cost-benefit analysis in this regard needs to factor in the strategic utility of such a rocket launching system.

Army’s Transborder Raid in Myanmar Interrogating the Claims(IR,EPW,Defense)

Some reasonably astounding claims have been made about the commando raid carried out by the Indian Army on rebel camps in Myanmar. A long-time observer of the region and military operations there separates the chaff to prise out the possible grain of truth.
Subir Bhaumik (sbhaum@gmail.com) is a veteran BBC correspondent who has reported on and from the Northeastern states. He is the author of two books Insurgent Crossfi re and Troubled Periphery on the insurgency and political problems in that region.
This article was earlier posted on the Web Exclusives section of EPW website.
Reporting the Indian transborder strike in Myanmar, a top news- paper headline said “Soldiers Crawled to Targets, Finished Operations in 45 Minutes.” That is where the tale hangs, on what has been projected as a bold move of the Modi government, a fitting riposte to the 4 June ambush by insurgents in Manipur that left 18 soldiers dead. The army’s Additional Director General of Military Operations, Major General Ranvir Singh, claimed the operations were along the India–Myanmar border and “significant casualties” were inflicted on the militants.
However, subsequent reporting, driven by the Union Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore’s claims of “strikes deep inside Myanmar,” has run riot on casualty figures, locations and assumptions; of this last, the most worrying is that such attacks can be repeated in Pakistan. It has been claimed that Indian military helicopters did not cross the international border but dropped the troops on the border and left them to trek and crawl into the rebel camps for a surprise attack. It has also been claimed that the whole operation was over in 45 minutes.
What Camps, Where
Anyone aware of ground realities along the India–Myanmar border, especially the jungles of Sagaing region where the assault reportedly took place, would know that if the para-commandos were dropped at the border and hit a rebel base and returned within 45 minutes, the base would not be “deep inside Myanmar.” Knowing the punishing Sagaing terrain where these rebel camps are located, it would be too much to expect, even from the toughest of commandos, to make even two to three kilometres on the run with heavy weapons like rocket-propelled grenades and medium machine guns, hit the camp and de-induct within 45 minutes. Even if they had the benefit of guides from the anti-Khaplang faction of the National Socialist Council of Nagaland (NSCN), who have broken off from the Burmese Naga rebel chieftain three months ago, it would be an impossible task. 
So it would be more accurate to imagine that perhaps the camp(s) attacked were right on the border or very close to it. If that was the case, it would be naive to expect that the commandos could retain the surprise as the noise made by helicopters in such desolate jungle terrain would be picked up by ever-alert rebel sentries even from a substantial distance. If the rebels pick up the noise of the helicopters—as indeed they would if the drop was near rather than far from their camp—they would either rush to predetermined ambush locations    around their camps to welcome the commandos or just abandon it, if they felt that they do not have enough strength and were not confident of making a fight of it. 
The commandos would then “destroy” an abandoned camp without rebels in it. That rules out the preposterous claims of casualties in rebel ranks—100 to 150 in some, at least 20 as claimed by army sources, 50 or more claimed by Home Ministry sources and 38 specifically claimed by a TV channel quoting “those involved in the operation.” The Manipur People’s Liberation Army has admitted to one of their “border transit camps” coming under attack but the rebels insist that they beat back the attack without any casualties. The United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) has backed that claim and the NSCN-Khaplang has denied any attack on their camp, suggesting the camp attacked by the Indian commandos was not theirs. 
What has added to the confusion are claims by a former colonel who headed a military think tank after retirement that the commandos were not only dropped at the location by helicopters but also had been “provided firepower support by attack helicopters.” His inside contacts in the military make his account more believable than those of the gung-ho media warriors who have claimed 150 militants dead. He claims more than 20 militants killed. That would be more of a likely figure if the Indian attack helicopters went straight for a dive and fire attack, firing heavy ammunition and with commandos slithered down firing to finish off. But initial military claims that the assault took place between 1 am and 4 am IST would mean the sun had not yet risen on Sagaing when the assault peaked. To hit a small rebel camp in the dark from the sky in the thickly forested Sagaing terrain and claim it was a “surgical strike” may be as incredible as Rathore’s claim of hitting “deep inside Myanmar.” 
Implications and a Lesson
There was surely a military assault on a rebel base, on the border with Myanmar or somewhat inside it, the commandos did engage the rebels and they are claiming they could inflict some casualties which the rebels deny. Whatever may have been the actual course of events will never be fully known, but there are two pointers that emerge from this attack which are encouraging.
First, it does point to a new aggression in the Indian security establishment to exercise the option of a transborder raid. Even if the rebel camp attacked on the border is just one of the many transit camps that dot the India–Myanmar frontier and serve as a “hop-in” point for bigger rebel squads coming into Indian territory from deeper—and bigger—rebel bases, it would have some effect in combating insurgency in the northeastern states. 
In Tripura, much of the success against transborder tribal militancy followed joint operations by state police and military intelligence to destroy the “transit camps” on the border by using surrendered rebels. The “transit camps” allow bigger rebel squads to rest after a long march from deep inside Myanmar and observe movement of Indian security forces or factional rivals (many amongst Naga groups) before they enter Indian territory for operations. Destroying them systematically will limit the Khaplang-led rebel coalition’s ability to sustain hostile operations inside Indian territory. 
Second, it is always a good idea to take the battle to the rebels rather than concentrate forces around the spot of the ambush, from where the rebels have made-off long before the security forces arrive. Such operations at the ambush site end up invariably causing human rights violations on innocent civilians. That is why there are few such allegations of human rights violations in Tripura, because the whole focus was hitting rebels inside Bangladesh, by using surrendered rebels in jungle bases and using Bangladeshi mafiosi to target rebel leaders in safe houses in Dhaka and Chittagong. Since the decision to strike the rebels on or across the border was taken this time, there have been few reports of human rights violations in Chandel after the 4 June ambush.
But covert operations achieve results when kept secret. After all, this is not the first time such operations have happened. Tiny Tripura and its publicity-shy Chief Minister Manik Sarkar neither denies nor owns up to the more than 20 transborder strikes by surrogates but those in the know are aware that the Chief Minister’s Medal he conferred on a military intelligence officer was to recognise his stellar role in organising such raids. The army recognised this officer’s contributions much later, conferring a Sena Medal on him.

India’s War against Itself A View from Manipur (InternalSecurity,epw)

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Delhi’s chest-thumping journalists are becoming mere stenographers of power, forgetting to ask questions and interrogate offi cial narratives. A journalist from Manipur recounts the events leading up to and around the 9 June 2015 “surgical strikes” by the Indian Army against insurgents and explains the event in its contexts.

Pradip Phanjoubam (phanjoubam@gmail.com) is editor of the Imphal Free Press. His book on the geopolitics that shaped the physical map and psychology of North-East India is due to be published later this year.

This article was earlier posted on the Web Exclusives section of EPW website.

There is something very strange about the ongoing operations against the National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Khaplang (NSCN-K), and other North-East militants in the wake of the 4 June devastating ambush on a convoy of the 6 Dogra Regiment of the Indian Army which left 18 soldiers dead and 14 more injured. All news of these operations, including the surgical commando strikes deep into Myanmar territory on 9 June, emanate from New Delhi and are loudly relayed through the many 24-hour TV channels and columns by North-East experts based in that city.

Virtually nothing of these is known in Manipur or Nagaland, where the operations are launched from. Even the state governments are left in the dark, as the Chief Minister of Manipur, Okram Ibobi said in a candid reply to a query from a journalist on the sidelines of an official function on 11 June; “We have been depending on what is revealed to the media in New Delhi for information,” he said.

Maybe, the Chief Minister is being dutifully discreet, for these are supposed to be swift and secret operations, and at stake is the country’s diplomatic relations with Myanmar, but his act of discretion is appearing ridiculous amidst all the loud celebratory drumbeats and chest thumping in New Delhi. Some resourceful journalists and commentators of Delhi are apparently even privy to the battle plans used by the elite strike forces, latest satellite imageries shared between Indian and Myanmar government authorities immediately before the operations were launched, etc.

The other scenario is, if Ibobi’s government is actually being left in the dark, nothing can be more humiliating. Nothing can be a louder testimony of the centre–state relations with regard to the North-Eastern states too. This should place even the debate over the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in proper perspective. Who can now say it is up to the North-East states to do away with the draconian act merely by not extending the Disturbed Area Act in their states?

Some Obvious Questions

There are other unexplained points as well, and the longer these remain unexplained, the already darkening cloud over these “surgical strikes” will thicken.

The first of these unexplained points is, no clinching evidence of the two strikes, such as a picture of the destroyed camps, or those of dead militants, etc, has been provided. If pre-strike satellite imageries were available to be shared with the Myanmar government, as some columnists were so sure they were, there should be post-strike satellite imageries of these destroyed camps too, specially so after the unending orgy of celebratory drum beats and chest thumping in New Delhi; the secrecy argument can hardly be convincing now.

The second unexplained point is, the Myanmar government is now denying there were strikes within their territory. They did not do so immediately, probably because they too were unsure, as the areas where the strikes took place have very thin Myanmar government presence. Up north in the territory where Khaplang holds sway, government presence is virtually nil which is precisely why Khaplang can provide safe sanctuary for North-East militants. But in the past few days, quoting its northern army posts, Myanmar government is saying, quite definitively too, that the Indian operations did not spill into its territory.

On 9 June, the local media in Manipur and Nagaland on their usual beats were also confirming these reports from their own sources, chiefly the police and local army spokespersons. The army sent out a brief press release in Imphal saying there were encounters along the international border during operations, but did not specify numbers of casualties or whether the international border was crossed.

Local newspapers also contacted police stations in the border area, and only the Chassad police station reported hearing sounds of gunfire exchanges from the direction of the border on the morning of 9 June. Villagers of Bhaiko, under their jurisdiction, reported army helicopters landing near their village. Seventeen kilometres from this village is Ningsom village near which, along the international border, an encounter took place, but this was with cadres of the Revolutionary People’s Front (RPF), whose armed wing is the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). This encounter has since been corroborated by the RPF/PLA in press releases to the local media with photographs of what they claimed are ammunitions left behind by their attackers. They claimed no casualties on their side.

Known rebel groups from Nagaland and Manipur have all clarified, either through press releases or else phone calls to the press, that they know of no such attacks on their camps. As it is, in the Kabaw Valley most of them do not stay in camps, but in the townships, merging with the local populations and only reassemble when duty calls.

From Chassad and adjacent Kamjong hilltop villages, and further north Chinghai, you can see deep into the Kabaw Valley and the Angoching range flanking the other edge of the valley. You can also see the Somra Tract in the north. At night you can see the flickers of lights in the townships and villages. This region is not altogether abandoned by the Myanmar security establishment. Understandably, Khaplang’s sway also does not extend here, and probably this is the reason why the Chandel ambush was not a sole NSCN-K mission. This being so, the surgical strikes by Indian troops and destruction of rebel camps here would also have come to be known within hours. And if there is anything burning it would be seen from the Chassad police station.

Up north, where the Patkai Range watershed is the international boundary in the Nagaland–Arunachal Pradesh sector, the mountainous region east of the Patkai is more wild and out of reach of the Myanmar government. Two journalists from Assam had, two years ago, trekked there to meet United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) chief Paresh Baruah and Khaplang, confirming this among others. If the surgical strikes had been in this region, it is likely to have missed official notice for long. From the reports so far however, this is not where the strikes were, at least not one of them.

There is yet one more uncertainty. The insurgents are not faceless people. They are in many ways prodigal children of families in Manipur and Nagaland, and their families are always in deep anxiety about their individual fates. Families do everything to woo their children back, and whenever there are news of encounters, they head for the mortuaries in town to identify bodies. Many mothers are known to suffer anxiety disorders. This is why insurgents are compelled to announce deaths of their cadres promptly, otherwise the families and communities of the dead fighters would turn against them. In the 4 June ambush, two militants, one Naga and another Meitei, also died. Within a day, they were both identified. If 15 to 100 militants have been killed in the border area of Myanmar on 9 June, it is unlikely this would have remained unconfirmed through this channel by now, unless all those killed belonged to Myanmar.

This could also be if the borders are sealed watertight, but this hardly is the case. This border, except in the Manipur sector where there are 38 boundary pillars erected in 1896, hardly has exact markers.

In the Manipur sector, the border was officially made in 1834. After ending Ava (Burmese) occupation of Manipur and Assam in 1826 at the end of the first Anglo–Burmese War and the signing of the Treaty of Yandaboo, the Chindwin River was deemed the boundary of the British protectorate Manipur, putting the Kabaw Valley under Manipur. But in 1834, upon repeated complaints by Ava, and seeing that the valley could be much better administered from Mandalay (the Ava capital) than from Imphal, the British persuaded the Manipur king that a new boundary should be negotiated, and Captain R Boileau Pemberton as the Boundary Commissioner drew what came to known as the Pemberton Line along the foot of the “Murring Hills” on the western edge of the Kabaw Valley.

In 1881, this boundary was realigned by the then British Political Agent in Manipur, Major James Johnstone. The objective was to contain the then restive Chassad Kukis, against whom punitive measures were becoming difficult because they would claim to be domiciles of Burma when pursued by Manipur and vice versa when chastised by the Burmese (A detailed account can be found in Alexander Mackenzie’s book TheHistory of British Relationship with the Frontier Tribes of Bengal). Johnstone’s line included the Chassad Kuki settlements in Manipur. In 1896, another British political agent in Manipur, a colonel Maxwell, put 38 boundary pillars along this boundary which then came to be known as the Pemberton–Johnstone–Maxwell Line.

In the Naga Hills sector, the Patkai Range watershed was considered as the boundary by the 1834 demarcation. The boundary between the Lushai Hills (Mizoram) and Chin Hills (Chin State in Myanmar) were demarcated in 1901 with minor readjustments in 1921 and 1922. The boundary between India and Myanmar was ratified by the two independent countries on 10 March 1967 in Rangoon along these lines.

Khaplang’s Importance

The 4 June ambush has suddenly awoken the Government of India (GoI) to the fact that it has to take every player in this conflict theatre on board for a comprehensive peace formula in the North-East. There are now allegations that the current crisis is a result of a misconceived plan of some officials of the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) to sideline the NSCN-K, so it can come to a settlement with National Socialist Council of Nagalim (Issak-Muivah)—NSCN-IM—led by Khaplang’s rivals Thuingaleng Muivah and Isak Swu, both from the Indian side of the border. The Indian government has been on a truce with both factions; with the NSCN-IM from 1997 and with the NSCN-K from 2001. The government has also been holding peace talks with the NSCN-IM but not with the NSCN-K, a fact resented by the latter.

The allegation is that the union MHA engineered a split in the NSCN-K and patronised a faction within which was opposed to Khaplang, to ensure that the latter leaves the peace process with the GoI. There are two reasons for suspecting this. First, Khaplang being a Myanmar domicile, it would have been out of the question for the GOI to think of reaching a political settlement with him. Second, the NSCN-IM wanted the Khaplang faction out of the equation. The MHA officials probably wanted to wash their hands off Khaplang, leaving him to settle his scores with the Myanmar government.

Things, it is proving now, were never so straightforward. Khaplang, as the two Assamese journalists who trekked to his camp noted, is reverentially referred to as Baba, and is a very respected leader in his home grounds in the upper Sagaing Division of Myanmar, and his territory is today virtually a liberated zone where only his writs command respect. In an interview to the journalists, he revealed, he has an interest in the presence of many rebel soldiers of the North East, for the size of fraternal troops on his land is a deterrent for the Myanmar Army. His call for a united liberation front of Western South East Asia, therefore was readily accepted by all in his sanctuary. The MHA and the Indian intelligence should have read this possibility. Had they done so, they probably would not have gone so wrong in assessing the threat potential of Khaplang and writing him off so casually.

Embedded Media

In the aftermath of the 4 June ambush and the “surgical strikes by Indian troops within Myanmar territory,” another reality has dawned. The days of the media as the tough and uncompromising interrogators of the establishment and the authorities in power, are on the way out.

The 18 deaths in the ambush was tragic, and there cannot have been anybody whose heart did not bleed seeing pictures of the families of these soldiers in Himachal Pradesh. In Manipur, there would have been many who cursed the attackers, except for the incorrigibly bitter who probably have had personal misfortunes at the hands of the security forces, a prospect not so uncommon or unimaginable in a land torn by conflict and subjected to oppressive laws. When the combing operations and manhunts for the militants began and Chandel District was sealed off by the Army, people waited with bated breath praying that no “collateral damages” may result. Fortunately, nothing of this sort has happened, to the extent known so far.

On 9 June, there was the “breaking news” emanating from New Delhi of the surgical strike by special commandos neutralising (the sanitised term for killing) “a significant number of militants.” Nothing abnormal so far; this is war and in a war, it is natural for combatants to fall, was the general reception of the news in Manipur. But from here on, the media in New Delhi, in particular the TV channels took over. The “significant number” began to have definite two-digit figures. Some even pushed it to three digits quoting unnamed authoritative sources. Talking heads were rushed to studios and the mood everywhere was one of celebration. The blood thirst in the scrolling headlines on screen would have made anybody shudder: “revenge,” “retribution,” “you hit us we hit back harder.” Many of these words soon became the adjectives for Manipur and Nagaland, making residents of these states uneasy, embarrassed, and on cooler reflection, furious.

In the evening of the same “breaking news” day, when newspapers in Manipur also sat down to take stock of things, they had with them just two press releases from the Press Information Bureau’s Defence Wing and from the state police to depend on. Neither had anything that signified hot pursuit into Myanmar territory, so local papers wrote their stories accordingly, though the bolder amongst them used the stories from the websites of these TV channels to make their stories juicier.

In all the TV shows, there was not a single voice that exercised or recommended healthy doubt, which all students of journalism are trained to imbibe. Nobody questioned these sources, and instead simply joined the celebration—of death. This thought itself was gory, even if those killed were enemies. Gone was also the notion that insurgency is a tragic internal war, in the words of Sanjib Baruah, “India fighting itself.” If American journalists were accused of being embedded with their military in their invasion of Iraq in 2003, who can now say Indian journalists, in particular, the frenetic TV channels, are not guilty of the same objectionable practice?

Indian Army chasing pipe dreams forever(HinduEditorial,Defense)

Overambitious norms in Qualitative Requirements are largely responsible for the alarming equipment shortage that the forces face today.

The Indian Army recently dispatched a global Request for Information (RfI) for a multi-purpose Future Ready Combat Vehicle (FRCV), which has generated much mirth in military-industrial circles, for its sheer ridiculousness and operational folly.
The Army’s request is for an FRCV that will not only serve as a ‘medium’-sized main battle tank to replace the Army’s ageing fleet of licence-built Russian T-72s but also as a ‘light-tracked and wheeled tank’, built on the same platform. In layman terms, this is like asking for a Humvee and a Maruti 800 on the same platform. Hopefully, the document will be either withdrawn or amended before its July 31 deadline.
Surely, the Directorate General of Mechanised Forces at Army Headquarters, responsible for issuing the request, realises the irony and irrationality of drawing up such absurd general staff qualitative requirements (GSQRs), which are technologically impossible for any manufacturer to fulfil.
What is all the more surprising is that such QRs are formulated after extensive discussion, not only by the division concerned — in this case, the Mechanised Forces — but finally approved by the Army’s Deputy Chief (Planning & Systems), who is responsible for acquisitions. His office, as are those involved in formulating the requests and the subsequent proposals, or tenders, is purportedly staffed by competent scientific and technical advisers.
Senior Army officers concede that such over-ambitious and flawed requests for information, leading to equally over-stretched, faulty and diluted tenders, are largely responsible for the alarming equipment shortage that the forces face today. The shortfall includes small arms, howitzers, assorted helicopters, armour with night-fighting capacity, air defence capability and varied ordnance, among other things. Although Army Headquarters blames the hidebound and ill-informed Ministry of Defence (MoD) bureaucrats for this, it also has largely itself to blame for the glaring deficiencies.

‘Blinkered views’

“The whole process is carried out with limited knowledge and blinkered views,” said former Maj. Gen. Mrinal Suman, the Army’s leading authority on acquisitions and offsets. Poorly conceived, formulated and drafted QRs create confusion and delays, resulting in the entire process being aborted much later, he said. The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defence concurs.
In its report tabled in Parliament on April 30, 2012, the Committee declared that as many as 41 of the Army’s proposals for diverse equipment in recent years were withdrawn or terminated. The reasons included faulty or over-ambitious qualitative requirements. The Committee report unambiguously pinned responsibility on the Army. The MoD and attendant financial advisers had no role in framing weapon QRs. Service Headquarters consult with the largely uniformed Directorate General Quality Assurance (DGQA), sometimes with inputs from the Defence Research and Development Organisation.
The typical process is this: all available literature on the equipment is gathered and its multiple characteristics collated. The idea is to include as many features as possible to demonstrate how exhaustively the task has been performed. Thereafter, as the draft travels up the chain of command, it gathers additional parameters, as each officer feels compelled to suggest more improvements. “The final QR takes the shape of a well-compiled wish list of utopian dimensions, which simply do not exist,” stated Gen. Suman.
For instance, in 2004, the Army issued a tender for 168 light utility helicopters to replace the obsolete fleet of Cheetahs and Chetaks inducted into service in the mid-60s. The proposal required the chopper to hover uninterruptedly for 30 minutes, a capability no helicopter in the world possessed at the time. The maximum hover time then available, with a U.S. helicopter, was seven minutes. The Army was forced to withdraw the tender soon after.
Similarly, a tender to upgrade FH-77B 155mm/39 calibre howitzers, acquired in the 1980s, had to be scrapped twice, first in 2006 and again in 2009, as the QRs drawn up by the Artillery Directorate were unworkable. A BAE Systems official associated with the upgrade at the time said that the requirements were ‘unrealistic’ for these old guns, expecting more capability than even new howitzers.
In 2013, the request sent to at least five overseas vendors to replace the Army’s obsolete Bofors 40mm L-70 and Soviet ZU-23mm 2B air defence guns had to be scrapped. All five vendors declared the requirements to be unreasonable, as they demanded a firing rate of 500 rounds per minute, a capability no gun in the world possessed.
The same has applied to tenders for tank fire control systems, long range observation systems and for different ammunition types, all terminated over the years on grounds of overreach and unrealism. It would appear that the Indian Army’s search for matchless, and globally unavailable, equipment and capabilities triumphs over and over again.
(Rahul Bedi is a defence analyst.)
Keywords: Indian Army, Future Ready Combat Vehicle, defence procurements, defence equipments, Army equipments, arms import

Adequate Empowerment of the Services and Financial Oversight Yet to be Achieved( IDSA ,Defence organisation , GS paper 3 )

With effect from 1 May 2015, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has
instituted a set of enhanced delegated financial powers to the three
Services, Integrated Defence Staff and its attached establishments,
Coast Guard and the Armed Forces` Medical Services. In addition, the
MoD has issued guidelines for the exercise of these powers, inter alia
specifying an internal audit structure, to apparently enable the
judicious exercise of the delegated powers and in a quicker time-frame.
The internal finance mechanism is also proposed to be made more
involved with planning and resource management, i.e. budgeting. An
internal financial advisory system  [though the nomenclature used in the Indian defenceset-up is  of Integrated Financial Advisers (IFAs)],
starting from principal integrated financial advisers with the
Services` Headquarters and similar advisers at lower echelons of the
Services, is supposed to be a key element to assist the executive
authorities, i.e., the competent financial authorities, in resource
deployment and expenditure management related to the national defence
 Since 2006, there has been a substantial enhancement of delegated
powers to the Services. Broadly, the enhanced power varies from two to
two-and-a-half times for stores/equipment procurement for the Army along
with escalation for similar transactions of the Navy and Air Force.
There are, however, a few variations. For the victualling stores of the
Navy, the present powers delegated at the highest threshold to the
Chief of Logistics (COL) is Rs. 100 crore and up to Rs. 3 crore per
transaction to the Vice Chief of Naval Staff, respectively, to procure
such stores with IFA concurrence. A change effected is that in case of
some transactions, the functionaries responsible for provisioning have
been empowered as against the earlier pattern wherein officers
performing staff functions or in the policy formulation domain were
primarily the higher expenditure sanctioning authorities. This change is
welcome to the extent that those involved with programme execution and
service or maintenance functions would also be responsible for the
budgets and expenditure sanctions, albeit in consultation with their
IFAs. (One exception is the power of sanctioning works, i.e., for
accepting necessity and according administrative approval, which is
vested with Service Chiefs for Rs. 50 crore per project/work.)
The framework of the delegation now formalised through the relevant
government letters issued on 20 April 2015 is a shade different from
those which obtained in previous years. The emphasis on internal audit
through an Audit Advisory Committee (AAC) under the financial adviser
of MoD, as part of an oversight mechanism for risk management, etc.,
conveyed through the government letters of delegation, may appear to be
a new phenomenon. This is, however, not so. Internal audit always had
an inherent sanctified role in defence transactions. For various
reasons and circumstances, this role could not be effectively exercised
by the designated internal audit authority, i.e., controller general
of defence accounts. There has been inhibition on the part of the
Services towards allowing the entire gamut of their transactions being
made susceptible to internal audit. The reasons cited were: sensitivity
of the transactions, wherewithal not being available with the
Services` executives to facilitate the audit as for instance in border
areas, etc. A glaring instance of defence transactions put beyond the
pale of audit is the prevailing “war system of accounting”, wherein
audit cannot verify the correctness of consumption of stores of a large
number of units and formations in THE northern and eastern sectors.
The new delegation of financial powers does not address this
shortcoming. In fact, the Comptroller & Auditor General of India
(C&AG) has refused to statutorily certify from the audit angle the
accounts related to Defence Services Estimates on the premise that
internal audit by  the controller general of defence accounts has not
been exercised vis-à-vis such Service units and formations.
Furthermore, it is not clear as to why it should be necessary to have
annual audit plans, review by an AAC, etc. Internal audit is inherently
built into the role of integrated finance of MoD and its connected
set-up, i.e., the set-up of financial adviser of defence services and
its attached arm – the office of controller general of Defence
Accounts, and the latter`s subordinate offices spread throughout the
country. The statutory rules of Government of India are clear on the
ambit of internal audit in all spheres of governance – civil or
military, and it should not have been necessary to put in place a
structured mechanism such as AAC, etc. Experience shows that, in the
Indian context, more structures only lead to more bureaucratisation and
delays in decisive action. MoD should have ensured that the internal
audit reports of the controller general of defence accounts, with
concomitant appraisal notes, on functional areas of high financial risk,
regulatory violation, transactions which failed to achieve desired
outcomes and also areas where internal audit was constricted or not
allowed by circumstances or deliberate design, are mandated to be
placed before Parliament and the Standing Committee on Defence along
with the detailed demand for grants of the Ministry, instead of being
considered only as an input to the finance division of MoD as appears
to be the case at present.
Another fundamental issue, the financial empowerment of the Services by
making them responsible for the policies and programmes they
formulate, working out the resources they need, and their
implementation in the most judicious and economic manner, does not seem
to have been addressed. The Services, therefore, are not de facto
responsible for the budget provisions allocated to them, object and
programme-wise. Apart from budget-related decisions, the major extent
of both Revenue and Capital expenditure powers continue to remain
vested in the MoD. While this legacy situation prevails, the Services
also are not enthusiastic about involving their internal finance, i.e.,
their IFAs, in the budget formulation process. It is only in budget
monitoring to an extent, and too limitedly without having any role in
re-adjustment and re-appropriation of funds at budgetary landmark stages
like `Revised Estimates` and `Final Estimates`,  that these advisers
are associated by the Services. To compound the situation, MoD Finance,
i.e., the integrated finance division of this Ministry – which works
out the final budget requirement and obtains the Defence
Secretary`s/Raksha Mantri`s approval before referring to the Union
Finance Ministry for subsuming the Defence Ministry`s requirement in the
Union Budget – does not obtain any significant institutionalized input
from the Services` HQs` integrated financial advisers in the matter.

In the light of the above-indicated arrangements and institutional
framework, responsibility will continue to remain diffuse in finance
matters between the MoD and the Services` HQs. Comprehensive
Parliamentary oversight of the Services` resource management is also
likely to be affected. The institution of the C&AG and their audit
mechanism, the audit reports they generate, for Parliamentary scrutiny
in general and in detail through the Public Accounts Committee, remain
consequently the only effective means of financial oversight. The Union
Government may seriously consider comprehensive and effective
empowerment of the Services, with internal finance involved at all
stages, on par with the system prevailing in the Civil realm and within
the ambit of existing statutory rules, without any special
dispensation for the Services. Though the creation of Chief of Defence
Staff institution may facilitate single-point coordination of advice on
operational matters to the political executive, this by itself will not
be sufficient for optimization of the national defence effort.
Instead, a move towards converting the Services` HQs as departments of
the government within the scope of Allocation of Business Rules, and
with responsibility to Parliament for obtaining Defence
 appropriations, etc., may be in the long-term interests of the
country. Within such a structure, the Services will be measurably
empowered, Parliamentary oversight will be more effective, and internal
audit by the controller general of defence accounts and statutory audit
of C&AG can function as part of a continuum.

Time for an indigenous arms industry(HinduEditorial, Defense)

Even as the security environment has deteriorated, India has not managed to escape the exorbitant arms import trap.

Union Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar and U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter signed the 10-year Defence Trade and Technology Initiative in early June, to extend defence cooperation between the two countries. The move has been hailed as “path-breaking”, but in reality the agreements on joint technology development are far below expectations. In fact, to expect any country to share cutting-edge defence technology would be gross naivety. As the Narendra Modi government enters its second year, it’s time to map the challenges facing it in the defence sector.

There is no choice for India but to go Indian. Results will only flow if cogent policies drive decision-making, even as field work continues. With 250 million people on either side of the poverty line, the defence budget has rarely crossed 2 per cent of the GDP, and it is doubtful if it ever will. To make optimal use of the scarce money, the Ministry of Defence’s (MoD) task is cut out along two avenues: operational and administrative.

Operationally, two basic issues require immediate consideration. First, the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) has to be urgently revamped, to address the “hollowness” of the forces (as one Chief put it). Second, the Defence Offsets Management Wing (DOMW) must be strengthened immediately. Even as the security environment has palpably deteriorated, the defence acquisition process has failed to get India out of the arms import trap.

The Defence Research and Development Organisation’s efforts have been embarrassingly poor. The reality is that India will continue to import for the next two decades. These frightfully expensive acquisitions need leveraging through the DPP and DOMW to ramp up Research and Development and manufacturing capabilities. The phrase ‘in war there is no prize for runner-up’ might be a cliché but unfortunately never truer, as ‘victory’ and ‘defeat’ have acquired new definitions. Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that these terms have a contextual hue, and considering that India’s future wars will be short and sharp, time and intensity are also keyfactors.

State of arms

India’s acquisition process must enable an indigenous defence manufacturing base that delivers on quality, timeliness of supply, and capacity


India has the third-largest armed force in the world.


India is one of the largest importers of conventional defence equipment and spends about 40 per cent of its defence budget on capital acquisitions.


About 60 per cent of its defence requirements are met through imports.


The allocation for defence in the last budge was approximately Rs. 2.4 lakh crore.


In 2015, the budgetary allocation for defence was Rs. 2.6 lakh crore, an increase of over 7 per cent.

Our defence procurements need to address these complexities, and if a confrontation drags on, the nation must have the ‘strategic depth’ of a continuous supply chain, which only an indigenous arms industry can ensure. So, India’s acquisition process must become the enabler of an indigenous defence manufacturing base that delivers on quality, timeliness and capacity.

Achilles heel

India’s acquisition hierarchy, however, has an Achilles heel in the absence of a structure that ‘owns’ the acquisition process. Thus, targets, responsibility and accountability cannot be fixed. The Department of Defence Production, Director-General (Acquisition), and the MoD are amorphous behemoths; no responsibility can be pinned on any one of them.

What happens elsewhere? The U.S. set up a Defence Acquisition Corps when it realised that its acquisition system had been “managed and over-reformed into impotence with volumes of oversight regulations,” as a defence historian put it. Doesn’t that sound familiar? The U.K. ensures continuity, and hence accountability, through an integral civil services permanent cadre in its MoD. India has deputationists and part-timers who come and go from any Ministry, with no attachment to the ‘spirit of indigenisation’.

Any reform of the DPP has to start with the creation of an entity that ‘owns’ the acquisition process. This entity should have officers of all departments influencing defence indigenisation and must work under one head, who will oversee the process of drafting policy and implementation. The careers of personnel in this organisation should swim or sink with the progress of defence indigenisation. Naysayers just need to look at the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to understand that creating such an entity is possible.

DOMW augmentation

The immediate reform of the DOMW is the second major requirement. With offsets still a norm, the nation has paid at least 10 to 15 per cent more in each contract as a cost of offsets. The 36 Rafales that are coming from France have a $4 billion offset estimate, while the total estimate in the next decade could reach $100 billion! To manage such massive amounts, there are only 10 people manning the DOMW today. The staff needs to be immediately expanded and must be given a fixed tenure of at least five years. In parallel, training in defence acquisition needs to be institutionalised through the upcoming National Defence University.

Pride in uniform is the mantra that gives the armed forces josh. It’s time this lost sheen was restored to them. In its second year in office, the government must work on the administrative aspects of defence building. The nation expects the armed forces to deliver everywhere. Surely, the government can respond with correct pay, housing and ‘one rank one pension’ policies?

(Manmohan Bahadur, a retired Air Vice-Marshal, is a Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for Air Power Studies, New Delhi).

Keywords: military equipment, arms, defence indigenisation, defence procurement

Agni 5


Fighting without equipment (Defence ,GS paper 3 ,The Hindu )

The Army’s unconscionable delay in acquiring modern small arms severely compromises the infantry’s operational efficiency, especially in counter-insurgency warfare.

In the last five years, the small arms profile of India’s paramilitary forces has emerged as significantly superior to that of the Army, which continues to struggle to acquire even basic weapons for its infantry units. Since 2010, the Army has operated without a carbine, and has been battling seemingly intractable Ministry of Defence (MoD) bureaucratic processes to procure one. It is also struggling with similar self-defeating and hidebound acquisition procedures to acquire an assault rifle. It is still years away from selecting one, let alone inducting it into service.
Succeeding Army chiefs have declared the procurement of both weapon systems to be ‘top priority’, but years later, following extended trials and interminable evaluations, this priority remains unfulfilled.
On the other hand, the central paramilitary forces have, over the same time frame, inducted a range of modern carbines and assault rifles into service. Undoubtedly, their numbers are fewer than the Army’s, but there is a procedural lesson for the Army in the relative swiftness with which the central paramilitary forces have shortlisted, evaluated, tested, and finally acquired the weapon systems.

Interminable processes

Ironically, instead of the bigger and more battle-hardened Army setting an example in small arms acquisitions, the opposite has been true, due largely to the central paramilitary forces’ less encumbered acquisition procedures and swifter decision-making processes. Since 2010-2011, the Border Security Force (BSF) and Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) have acquired some 34,377 ‘Storm’ MX-4 sub-machine guns from Italy’s Beretta, with under barrel grenade launchers (UBGLs) and around 68,000 AK-47 variant assault rifles from Bulgaria’s Arsenal. A follow-on order by the CRPF for 60,000-odd AK-47s is under acquisition. Other central paramilitary forces purchases include 2,540 Tavor X-95 carbines from Israel and over 12, 000 9mm MP-5 sub-machine guns from Germany, some of which have been disbursed to special state police units deployed in counter insurgency operations against Naxalites.
In comparison, the Indian Army’s unending saga of small arms acquisitions makes dismal telling. This is due to utter confusion in determining their qualitative requirements (QRs) and the inherent systemic inefficiencies for which the Army has to assume ownership. This time around, it cannot complain that the MoD deprived its soldiers of basic weaponry.
In December 2010, the Army issued a tender for 44,618 5.56mm close quarter battle (CQB) carbines and 33.6 million rounds of ammunition to replace its World War II vintage submachine guns, which even the Ordnance Factory had stopped producing. The trials featuring three vendors ended in end-2013. But the Army has yet to declare a winner, reportedly due to a handful of senior officers in the interminable procurement chain unduly favouring one carbine over the other for specious, almost laughable, reasons.
The tender requires a carbine weighing no more than 3kg to be capable of firing 600 rounds per minute, to a distance of 200 meters. It also requires the winning model to transfer technology to the Ordnance Factory to licence-build it in order to meet the Army’s requirement for over 2,00,000 CQB carbines. This number is expected to increase manifold.
However, the fear in military circles is that the petty differences in the Army’s selection team could well result in the tender being scrapped altogether. Retendering would take several more years, during which time the Army will have to operate without a carbine.

The assault rifles delay

The assault rifle procurement story is even more incomprehensible and alarming, as the Army is likely to scrap its 2011 tender for 66,000 multi-calibre assault rifles, after four overseas vendors failed to meet its requirements in trials that concluded last November.
The Army’s tender required the modular assault rifles to switch from 7.62x39mm to 5.56x45mm for employment in defensive and suppressive fire roles, merely by changing their barrels and magazines. The selected system was to have replaced the Defence Research and Development Organisation-designed assault rifle, which the Army had stated was ‘operationally inadequate’ in 2010, after using it on sufferance for years. 
The shortlisted rifle, like the CQB carbine, was also to be licence-built by the OFB to meet the Army’s immediate operational requirement for over 2,20,000 assault rifles. Four models participated in trials at Bakloh cantonment near Dalhousie in Himachal Pradesh and at Hoshairpur in Punjab, from August 2014 onwards. All four rifles failed to meet the Army’s QRs for various reasons.
Official sources indicated that retrials were unlikely, and that after four years of wasted effort, the Army now plans to draw up fresh QRs for a single calibre rifle, in all likelihood a 7.62x39mm, which has a shorter range than its 5.56x45mm calibre equivalent that is in use with most of the world’s armies. It will then send out a request for information for the new rifle, before re-tendering several months later. Thereafter, it will navigate the time-consuming process of technical evaluation, user trials and shortlisting, followed by price negotiations, a process lasting three to four years.

Poor alternative

The MoD is also believed to be considering the alternative proposal of abandoning the import of both the carbine and assault rifle and manufacturing them locally under Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Make in India’ enterprise. But this will also entail time-consuming procedures, necessitating a private or public sector-led joint venture with an overseas original equipment manufacturer, again selected after extensive trials. Such an enterprise would, doubtless, necessitate the import of a certain number of weapon systems before their licensed production by the JV begins much later.
Army officers have warned that such delays severely compromise the operational efficiency of infantry units, especially those deployed in counter-insurgency operations, as they are forced to employ INSAS rifles against the superior weaponry of militants in Kashmir and the Northeast. Meanwhile, even the sniper rifles used in the paramilitary forces are more contemporary and advanced than the Army’s Soviet-era Dragunov SVD gas-operated, semi-automatic models acquired in the 80s.
Attempts to import around 1,000 sniper rifles for the Army’s Special Forces in 2010-11 under the Fast Track Procurement route proved fruitless and have been abandoned, even though the requirement remains a priority. An Army team led by a two-star officer conducted comparative trials in Israel (for IWI’s semi-automatic Galil sniper rifle), Finland (for Beretta’s SAKO TRG-22/24 bolt action model) and the U.S. (for Sig Sauers 3000 magazine-fed rifle), but with no results.
Unfortunately, even such specialist rifles, which can potentially alter not only the course of battles and politics but even history, remain victims of Army apathy.

[Audio] A discussion on “One-Rank One Pension Scheme”