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France to deliver Rafales in July

NEW DELHI, June 29: Acting on a special request by the Indian Air Force (IAF) to speed up deliveries of Rafale fighter jets in the wake of heightened military tensions along the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China, France is reworking the schedule for supplying the planes at a faster pace, people aware of the matter said on Monday.

Six Rafale fighter planes are likely to land at their home base in Ambala on July 27--instead of four that were originally planned to be delivered--as France steps up efforts to meet IAF’s immediate requirements, said one of the persons cited above on condition of anonymity.

An IAF spokesperson declined comment.

India ordered 36 Rafale jets from France worth Rs 59,000 crore in September 2016 as an emergency purchase to arrest the worrying slide in the IAF’s combat capabilities.

“We are aware that around 10 Rafale jets are ready at aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation’s Merignac facility. Preparations are on to fly six Rafale jets to India in July-end with a stopover at Al Dhafra airbase near Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The jets will be flown by Indian pilots,” said a second person, also on condition of anonymity.

All the 10 fighters are not being delivered as some jets are needed in France to train IAF crews, he said.

The French air force will refuel the Indian fighters using its Airbus A330 multi-role tanker transport aircraft on their way to Al Dhafra from where aerial refueling support is expected to be provided by the IAF’s Russian IL-78 refuellers, the second person said.

Experts said accelerating the deliveries of Rafale jets is a significant development amid the ongoing border tensions with China.

“It is good that the Rafale delivery is being expedited as its operationalisation here would get advanced. Since we are in for the long haul on our northern borders, their availability with the IAF would add to its offensive potential,” said Air Vice Marshal Manmohan Bahadur (retd), additional director general, Centre for Air Power Studies.

Future deliveries of Rafale fighters are also being expedited, said the first person cited above.

According to the original delivery schedule, the first 18 jets (including the four in the first batch) were to be delivered to IAF by February 2021, with the rest expected in April-May 2022. France handed over to India its first Rafale fighters during a ceremony attended by defence minister Rajnath Singh and his French counterpart, Florence Parly, in Merignac on October 8, 2019, which coincided with the IAF’s 87th founding day and the Hindu festival of Dussehra.

IAF has raised its guard to deal with any military provocation by the Chinese forces and forward bases have been ordered to be on their highest state of alert. Apart from Sukhoi-30s and upgraded MiG-29 fighter jets, IAF is operating Apache AH-64E attack helicopters and CH-47F (I) Chinook multi-mission helicopters--both imported from the US--in the region.

IAF and the Indian Army have deployed their air defence systems in eastern Ladakh even as the People Liberation Army-Air Force has activated several of its bases in both Xinjiang and the Tibet Autonomous Region. Chinese fighter jets have regularly been making a show of strength in the Aksai Chin area, as reported by Hindustan Times on Sunday.

Both India and China have significantly reinforced their deployments with fighter jets, helicopters, tanks, heavy artillery and missiles in the region that has garnered extensive global attention in recent weeks, particularly after 20 Indian soldiers were killed in Ladakh’s Galwan Valley in a scrap with the Chinese along the LAC on June 15. An undisclosed number of Chinese soldiers also died in the clash, the worst between the two countries in 45 years.

India holds naval exercise with Japan amid stand-off with China

NEW DELHI, June 28: Indian and Japanese warships conducted exercises in the Indian Ocean on Saturday, announced the navies of both the countries. The Japanese Maritime Self-Defence Force described the manoeuvres as designed to “promote mutual understanding” and consisted of four warships, two from each country.

Naval exercises are now routine between India and Japan, but the timing of the present exercise will be bracketed with the military stand-off between India and China in Ladakh.

“We are using the exercises for strategic communications,” said Vice-Admiral Pradeep Chauhan, director-general of the National Maritime Foundation. The navies were “not there for combat purposes but for signalling,” he added.

“We need to be proximate with our friends and the Chinese know there is a direct ladder of escalation between Japan and the United States,” said the Vice-Admiral.

The Indian navy training vessels INS Rana and INS Kulush were joined by the Japanese navy’s JS Kashima and JS Shimayuki. The Japanese embassy in New Delhi said this was the 15th such exercise in three years. “The content of this exercise is tactical training and communications training,” said embassy spokesperson Toshihide Ando, “with no specific scenario.”

The Japanese navy has become one of the principal partners of the Indian Navy. Indian naval ships take part in the exercise, both bilaterally with their Japanese counterparts and as part of the Malabar Exercises, which include the United States.

Vice-Admiral Chauhan noted that Indian Army deployments were “sector specific” but India needed to apply pressure across military theatres. Exercises like these remind Beijing that Indian military can quickly deny air cover for Chinese naval assets in the Indian Ocean - and that such plans are ready. “They are still far away from deploying a carrier in the Indian Ocean,” he added.

Japan was one of the few countries who publicly supported India during the Doklam crisis. New Delhi and Beijing have preferred to let the Ladakh crisis be handled bilaterally, one reason it rejected US President Donald Trump’s offer of mediation. Tokyo has only expressed condolences over the deaths of the Indian soldiers in Galwan Valley and pointedly said nothing about Chinese casualties.

The Japanese navy has itself been upgraded and expanded in recent years because of the territorial disputes it has with an increasingly aggressive China. Despite its Pacific constitution, Tokyo has inducted a “helicopter destroyer” that has the some tonnage as India’s aircraft carriers and is now building a “helicopter carrier” which has a full flight deck.

Japan has one of the best non-nuclear submarines in the world and cutting edge anti-submarine warfare technology. Masashi Nishihara, head of the Japanese defence think tank, Research Institute for Peace and Security, says, “We are leaders in submarine detection. Not only can we find them, we can identify any variety of submarine.”

20 Indian armymen killed in clash with Chinese forces

NEW DELHI, June 16: Twenty Indian soldiers, including the commanding officer of an infantry battalion, were killed on Monday evening in a clash with Chinese troops in eastern Ladakh’s Galwan valley where soldiers of the two countries have been locked in a tense stand-off for 40 days.

In its initial statement early on Tuesday, the army had announced that an officer and two soldiers had been killed in action. By evening, an update by the army said 17 Indian troops who were critically injured in the line of duty at the stand off location and exposed to sub-zero temperatures in the high-altitude terrain had succumbed to injuries.

The army statement issued on Tuesday evening also said the Indian and Chinese troops at the Galwan area where they had earlier clashed “have disengaged”.

The Chinese army also suffered casualties in the face-off but there was no immediate confirmation of the numbers.

The army statement came hours after the external affairs ministry rebutted the China that pointed fingers at Indian soldiers for provoking the clash.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said Monday evening’s violent face-off took place in Galwan valley where the Chinese side “departed from the consensus to respect the LAC (Line of Actual Control)” and attempted to “unilaterally change the status quo”.

The external ministry ministry did not elaborate how the Chinese troops had tried to alter the status quo. Officials later said it could be a reference to an observation post set up by the Chinese troops on the Indian side of the LAC that was removed by Indian soldiers.

These are the first Indian casualties in a border skirmish with the People’s Liberation Army since October 1975 when Chinese troops ambushed an Indian patrol in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tulung La sector and shot four soldiers dead.

However, no shots were fired this time.

It is learnt rival soldiers exchanged blows, threw stones at each other and Chinese troops even attacked Indian soldiers with rods and nail-studded clubs during the brawl that went on for over six hours. However, this wasn’t the first time the two armies engaged in fisticuffs or used stones and rods to attack each other in the area.

The ongoing border scrap began with a confrontation between rival patrols near Pangong Tso on the night of May 5-6. The border row appears to have turned from bad to worse even as army delegations from India and China have held a series of discussions along the LAC to break the stalemate.

The deadly clash came on a day army delegations from India and China held talks at two locations along the LAC - brigadier-ranked officers met in the Galwan Valley and Colonel-ranked officers in Hot Springs - as part of continuing efforts to resolve the standoff.

As news of the border clash reached New Delhi last evening, Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane cancelled a scheduled visit to Pathankot and spent most of Tuesday at strategy meetings in New Delhi. Defence minister Rajnath Singh briefed Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the developments along the LAC and also held two meetings with chief of defence staff General Bipin Rawat and the three service chiefs to assess the ground situation and review options. External affairs minister S Jaishankar was also present in one of the meetings.

The external affairs ministry, which firmly pinned the blame for the clash on the Chinese side, linked the face-off to “an attempt by the Chinese side to unilaterally change the status quo there”.

“Both sides suffered casualties that could have been avoided had the agreement at the higher level been scrupulously followed by the Chinese side,” Srivastava said.

The limited disengagement of forces at Galwan Valley, Patrolling Point 15 and Hot Springs had started after a meeting between Lieutenant General Harinder Singh, commander of Leh-based 14 Corps, and Major General Liu Lin, commander of the People’s Liberation Army in the South Xinjiang region, on June 6.

Referring to the June 6 meeting where the two sides had agreed on a process for de-escalation, Srivastava said India had expected this would unfold smoothly but “the Chinese side departed from the consensus to respect the LAC”.

The situation remains tense at Pangong, which has been at the centre of the ongoing border scrap and where troops are still locked in a face-off.

India blames China for violent face-off in eastern Ladakh, says PLA tried to change status quo

The China’s foreign ministry said it wasn’t aware of fatalities on either side.

At his media briefing spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry Zhao Lijian spoke about the close communication through military and diplomatic channels before going on to blame Indian soldiers for Monday evening’s violent exchange.

“Our border troops had a high-level meeting and reached important consensus on easing the border situation. But astonishingly on June 15, the Indian troops seriously violated our consensus and twice crossed the border line for illegal activities and provoked and attacked Chinese personnel which led to serious physical conflict between the two sides,’’ Zhao said.

Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of Global Times, a tabloid run by the ruling Communist Party of China, however, tweeted that his information indicated casualties on the Chinese side and asked India not to misconstrue the PLA’s restraint for weakness.

Last month’s violent confrontations between Indian and Chinese soldiers in eastern Ladakh and north Sikkim triggered a military buildup on both sides of the LAC that stretched from Ladakh to Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh.

The Chinese buildup began immediately after clashes between border troops in Ladakh and Sikkim on May 5-6 and May 9, and predated the June 6 meeting between Lieutenant General Singh and his Chinese counterpart.

Border tensions between India and China flared up on May 9 when 150 soldiers were involved in a tense standoff in north Sikkim. Four Indian and seven Chinese soldiers were injured at Naku La during the confrontation.

Scores of soldiers from the two countries were also injured near Pangong Tso on the night of May 5-6, with the scuffle involving around 250 men.

Situation on borders with China is under control: Army chief Naravane

NEW DELHI, June 13: The situation along India’s borders with China is under control, Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane said on Saturday. Naravane said that the ongoing series of high delegation-level talks with the Chinese side has been followed up with meetings at the local level between the commanders of equivalent ranks.

Chief Naravane said that through the continued dialogue, it is hoped that all perceived differences between India and China will be set to rest.

“We are hopeful that through the continued dialogue we’re having, all perceived differences that we (India and China) have will be set to rest. Everything is under control,” he said.

Talking about the situation in Jammu and Kashmir, chief Naravane said that in last 10-15 days alone, more than 15 terrorists have been killed. “All of this has been because of very close cooperation and coordination between all security forces operating in J&K,” he said.

“Most of the operations have been based on information provided by the locals themselves which goes to show that they are also absolutely fed up with militancy and terrorism and they want that the situation should return to normal,” the army chief added.

This comes a day after Indian and Chinese army delegations, led by major general-ranked officers, on Friday held discussions in eastern Ladakh again to resolve the standoff between border troops. This was the fifth round of meeting between the two major generals to break the stalemate that began with a violent confrontation between rival patrols near Pangong Tso on the night of May 5-6.

Friday’s meeting between major general Abhijit Bapat, commander of the Karu-based HQs 3 Infantry Division, and his Chinese counterpart went on for nearly five hours, said an officer.

Besides this, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh on Friday reviewed India’s military preparedness in eastern Ladakh and several other sensitive areas along the Line of Actual Control in Sikkim, Uttarakhand and Arunachal Pradesh. Singh was briefed by Army chief Naravane at a high-level meeting which also saw Chief of Defence Staff General Bipin Rawat, Navy Chief Admiral Karambir Singh and Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria in attendance. Naravane gave a detailed account of the overall situation in eastern Ladakh.

Indian and Chinese military officials are engaged in high delegation-level talks in a bid to resolve the month-long row over the Line of Actual Control. The armies from the two sides are locked in an over five-week standoff in Pangong Tso, Galwan Valley, Demchok and Daulat Beg Oldie in eastern Ladakh.

Lt Gen-level talks between India, China on June 6

NEW DELHI, June 3: A meeting on June 6 between Indian and Chinese military officials, led by lieutenant generals from both armies, will be a significant step towards resolving the weeks-long row along the Line of Actual Control (LAC), said National Security Advisory Board member Lt Gen (retired) SL Narasimhan.

The general officer commanding of Leh-based 14 Corps, Lt Gen Harinder Singh, is expected to meet his Chinese counterpart almost a month after tensions between India and China began building up along the disputed border. The row has already taken bilateral ties to a new low.

This is perhaps the first time that lieutenant generals from both sides will meet in a sensitive sector to defuse border tensions – the highest talks between India and China at the tactical level have so far usually involved major generals.

Narasimhan, a top China expert, said modalities for resolving the border situation, with a focus on concerns brought to the table by both sides, could figure in the agenda for the upcoming meeting.

Defence minister Rajnath Singh had on Tuesday announced that a meeting between senior Indian and Chinese military officers will be held on June 6 to discuss the border situation.

The Northern Army commander, Lt Gen YK Joshi, was in Leh on Wednesday for a security review of the sensitive sector, where Indian and Chinese soldiers are eyeball-to-eyeball at four locations along the LAC.

Several rounds of talks between local military commanders, including three rounds of discussions between major generals, have failed to break the impasse that began with a violent confrontation between rival patrols near Pangong lake four weeks ago.

Around 250 soldiers from the two sides clashed near Pangong lake on the night of May 5-6, and the scuffle left scores of troops injured. While an immediate flare-up was avoided as both armies stuck to protocols to resolve the immediate situation, tensions swiftly spread to other pockets along the LAC.

China has marshalled close to 5,000 soldiers and deployed tanks and artillery on its side of the disputed border in Ladakh sector, where India has also sent military reinforcements and matched the neighbour’s military moves, as reported by Hindustan Times on May 26.

Chinese state-run media has described the latest tensions as the worst since the 2017 Doklam standoff that lasted 73 days.

The external affairs ministry has said that Chinese troops have hindered patrols by Indian forces on the Indian side of the LAC and that contacts have been established through military and diplomatic channels to address the situation.


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