Indian Army to get assault rifles from US
NEW DELHI, Sept 28: India’s defence acquisition council (DAC) on Monday cleared the decks for the purchase of military hardware worth Rs 2,290 crore, including assault rifles for frontline troops from the United States and the smart anti-airfield weapon, a defence ministry spokesperson said.
The Indian Army is laying the groundwork to buy an additional 72,000 Sig Sauer assault rifles from the US, officials said. These rifles will cost Rs 780 crore, the spokesperson said.
This proposed purchase follows an order for 72,400 assault rifles placed with the US last year. India signed the previous order worth Rs 700 crore in early 2019 and the deliveries of all the rifles have been completed.
The DAC, headed by defence minister Rajnath Singh, also cleared the purchase of the smart anti-airfield weapon at a cost of Rs 970 crore to add to the firepower of the navy and the air force, the ministry said in a statement.
“The DAC approved procurement of static HF transceiver sets…The HF radio sets will enable seamless communication for the field units of army and air force and are being procured at an approximate cost of Rs 540 crore,” it added.
The Sig Sauer rifles are being bought to meet the army’s requirement of a total of eight lakh assault rifles. The new assault rifles will gradually replace the flaw-ridden 5.56mm INSAS (Indian Small Arms System) rifles inducted around 22 years ago.
The remaining requirements of the army will be met through a Make in India project for the local production of AK-203 assault rifles at Amethi’s Korwa, and this procurement is in its final stage.
Shots fired at LAC with China after 45 years
NEW DELHI, Sept 8: The Indian Army on Tuesday said Chinese troops fired into the air on September 7 to intimidate its soldiers holding dominating heights near a strategic mountain pass in eastern Ladakh, in a failed attempt to close in on a forward position controlled by India as bullets flew at the contested Line of Actual Control (LAC) for the first time in 45 years.
Soldiers from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) tried to advance on the Mukhpari peak near Rezang La on Monday evening but stopped in their tracks after a stern warning from the Indian Army, which occupied key heights on the southern bank of Pangong Tso to prevent the PLA from grabbing Indian territory in a stealthy midnight move on August 29, officials familiar with the developments said on condition of anonymity.
The last recorded incident when bullets were fired at the LAC was in October 1975, when the PLA ambushed an Indian patrol in Arunachal Pradesh’s Tulung La sector and shot four soldiers dead.
The situation remains tense in the area with around 40 to 50 Chinese soldiers armed with automatic weapons, spears and machetes still holding positions below the Mukhpari peak, said one of the officials cited above.
“They are the same soldiers who fired the shots. Our positions are around 200 metres away. They have been in the area for the last two to three days. The PLA is intent on occupying high ground,” said a second official. Indian soldiers put up a “wire obstacle” near their positions in a warning to the PLA to not cross over, the officials said.
Reacting to a claim made by PLA’s Western Theatre Command on Monday night that accused India of crossing the disputed border and firing shots, the Indian Army said it neither violated the LAC nor fired bullets, and that the PLA was trying to mislead domestic audiences and the international community with its baseless allegations.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, Indian Army spokesperson Colonel Aman Anand said Indian troops exercised “great restraint and behaved in a mature and responsible manner” despite grave provocation by the PLA.
“It is the PLA that has been blatantly violating agreements and carrying out aggressive manoeuvres, while engagement at military, diplomatic and political level is in progress,” the statement said.
The latest tensions in eastern Ladakh come days after defence minister Rajnath Singh — in a face-to-face meeting with his Chinese counterpart Wei Fengshe on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) meeting in Moscow — asked China to strictly respect the LAC, not make attempts to unilaterally change the status quo, and work with India for complete disengagement from all friction areas in the sensitive sector.
The incident also comes just days before foreign minister S Jaishankar is due to meet his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at the SCO meet in Russia this week.
“On September 7, it was the PLA troops who were attempting to close-in on one of our forward positions along the LAC and when dissuaded by Indian troops, the PLA troops fired a few rounds in the air in an attempt to intimidate our troops,” the army statement said. It did not specify how Indian soldiers “dissuaded” the PLA.
The army said while India was committed to disengagement and de-escalating the conflict, China was undertaking provocative actions to escalate the situation.
“At no stage has the Indian Army transgressed across the LAC or resorted to the use of any aggressive means, including firing,” the statement said.
“The Indian Army is committed to maintaining peace and tranquillity. However, it is also determined to protect national integrity and sovereignty at all costs. The statement by the Western Theatre Command is an attempt to mislead their domestic and international audience,” it added.
The Western Theatre Command on Monday accused Indian soldiers of illegally crossing the LAC and firing “warning shots”, forcing the PLA to take countermeasures.
During his meeting with Fenghe on Friday, Rajnath Singh made it clear that India was fully determined to defend its frontiers. He also told the Chinese defence minister that the PLA’s aggressive actions in the Ladakh sector to unilaterally change the status quo on the ground violated bilateral agreements and the understanding between the Special Representatives of the two sides.
Singh said while Indian troops showed a responsible approach towards border management, there should be no doubt about India’s determination to protect its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Tensions flared up in the Ladakh sector after the Indian Army occupied strategic heights on the southern bank of Pangong Lake following aggressive moves by the PLA on August 29.
China made another provocative move on August 31, targeting these positions, but the Indian Army’s defensive action thwarted the Chinese attempt. Both sides have concentrated a significant number of soldiers, tanks and artillery pieces, and are within each other’s rifle range in the area.
The situation on the lake’s southern bank remains tense with both armies sending in reinforcements to the area where the Indian Army controls ridge line positions that allow it to completely dominate the sector and keep an eye on Chinese military activity — India holds a series of positions near Black Top (a hill feature) and on Rezang La and Reqin pass.
India joins US, Russia, China in hypersonic Missile club
NEW DELHI, Sept 7: India on Monday become the fourth country after US, Russia and China to develop and successfully test hypersonic technology from APJ Abdul Kalam testing range (Wheeler Island) in Balasore, Odisha, paving the way towards development of missiles travelling at six times the speed of sound (Mach 6).
The test of Hypersonic Test Demonstrator Vehicle (HSTDV), developed by Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) was conducted at 11.03 am today and lasted for five minutes using Agni missile booster.
According to top government sources, this means that the DRDO will have the capacity to develop a hypersonic missile with scramjet engine in next five years, which travels at more than two kilometres per second. The test was led by DRDO Chief Satheesh Reddy and his hypersonic missile team. The HSTDV performed on all parameters including combustion chamber pressure, air intake and control guidance.
At 11.03 am, an Agni missile booster took the hypersonic vehicle to height of 30 km after which the latter separated. Thereafter, the vehicle’s air intake opened and that led to successfully firing of the test scramjet engine. The combustion lasted for more than 20 seconds with the vehicle achieving a speed of six Mach.
“The vehicle performed successfully on all the pre-determined parameters including the ability to handle combustion temperatures of over 2500 degrees Celsius as well as air speed,” said a senior official.
Defence minister Rajnath Singh congratulated the DRDO immediately after the test and praised their efforts to indigenously build a scramjet engine.
He said that it is a landmark achievement towards realising the vision of ‘Atmanirbhar Bharat’ (self-reliant India).
“The @DRDO_India has today successfully flight tested the Hypersonic Technology Demonstrator Vehicle using the indigenously developed scramjet propulsion system. With this success, all critical technologies are now established to progress to the next phase,” Singh tweeted.
“I congratulate to DRDO on this landmark achievement towards realising the Prime Minister’s vision of Atmanirbhar Bharat. I spoke to the scientists associated with the project and congratulated them on this great achievement. India is proud of them,” the defence minister said in another tweet.
Indian, Chinese Defence Ministers fail to buy peace
NEW DELHI, Sept 5: The tough meeting between Indian and Chinese defence ministers in Moscow on Friday evening converged on both sides willing to explore the peace option albeit the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has beefed up its positions south of Pangong Tso with its troops facing the Indian Army at two points.
According to diplomats based both in New Delhi and Moscow, Indian defence minister Rajnath Singh and his Chinese counterpart General Wei Fenghe both held their positions while indicating that both countries were willing to give peace a chance in Ladakh. Singh is en-route to Delhi via Tehran.
While General Wei wrote down all the points raised by Singh during the two and a half-hour meeting, he claimed that the Indian media was very negative and also said that just like India was not of 1962, the PLA had also moved way ahead of skirmishes with Indian Army in 1962. Minister Singh expressed his helplessness in controlling the Indian media saying that India was a democratic country and the media was totally free.
Although both sides refused to give in an inch of land in Ladakh or occupied Aksai Chin, there were indications and hints towards both the armies returning to the previous positions. Perhaps the difference was that the Chinese wanted the previous positions of May, while India was clear that PLA goes back to the positions it occupied in April this year.
However, even as the two senior leaders discussed the issue, the PLA continued to be aggressive mode south of Pangong Tso as it faces Indian Army troopers at the bump feature and at Rechin La in the Chushul Valley. According to senior officials, around 150 PLA troops are deployed at the bump feature with an anti-aircraft gun being moved up the Black Top by the Chinese army on its side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC).
The Indian and Chinese troops are face to face at Rechin la with the PLA moving in armour early this week to cow down Indian troopers. The Chinese PLA Air Force is continuing with combat air patrols in the area and the troop build-up continues not only in Ladakh but there are signs of force accretion on the Chinese border with Bhutan.
With India matching the PLA in not only troop build-up but also heavy artillery, the road to disengagement and de-escalation is long and tenuous. Now that the two defence ministers have had candid conversations, the stage is set for external affairs minister S Jaishankar to meet his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi on the SCO sidelines on September 10 to give a further push to peace.
In stern warning to Pak, Gen Rawat says ‘India capable of handling two-front threat’
NEW DELHI, Sept 3: Amid rising tensions with China in the Ladakh sector after provocative Chinese actions on the southern bank of Pangong Tso and India’s counter-manoeuvres to occupy key heights, chief of defence staff (CDS) General Bipin Rawat on Thursday said Pakistan could try to take advantage of any threat developing along India’s northern borders but warned that the Pakistani army would suffer heavy losses if it attempted any misadventure.
Speaking at a seminar organised by the United States-India Strategic Partnership Forum on ‘Navigating New Challenges’, Rawat highlighted the threat of “coordinated action” by the militaries of China and Pakistan along the northern and western borders and stressed that the Indian armed forces were capable of handling the joint threat.
The CDS said India’s military strategy to deal with a twin challenge would be based on identifying a primary and a secondary front for conducting operations.
His comments came on a day when Indian Army chief General Manoj Mukund Naravane reached Leh for a two-day security review of the Ladakh sector where India and China armies have deployed almost 100,000 soldiers and weaponry in their forward and depth areas.
The Indian Army has rejigged its deployments at multiple points along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, including the northern bank of Pangong Lake, to prevent the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) from making aggressive manoeuvres to unilaterally alter the status quo in the contested areas.
Tensions flared in the sensitive sector after the Indian Army occupied key heights on the southern bank of Pangong Lake five days ago to stop the PLA from grabbing Indian territory in a stealthy midnight move.
Brigade commander-ranked officers from the two sides met for the fourth time in Chushul on Thursday to de-escalate tensions but the talks were inconclusive with neither army prepared to make concessions.
On Wednesday, Indian Air Force chief Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria visited frontline bases under the Shillong-based Eastern Air Command to review the air force’s operational readiness in the eastern sector.
India has strengthened its military posture across the length of the LAC -- from Ladakh to Uttarakhand, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh - to deal with any provocation by the Chinese military.
India is also keeping a strict vigil on the western front to deter Pakistan from fishing in troubled waters and prevent what could turn out to be a two-front conflict.
Rawat said India has border management protocols with China to promote peace and tranquillity along the border but of late there have been aggressive actions by China that the Indian military is fully capable of handling. He said India was keeping track of the infrastructure development by China in the Tibet Autonomous Region and its implications were being considered while devising military strategy.
The CDS referred to the Quad as a good arrangement to ensure complete freedom of navigation on the high seas and overflight, and unimpeded commerce. China has also been wary of the Quadrilateral security dialogue or Quad that was revived in late 2017 by India, the US, Australia and Japan, and these suspicions have increased since the four countries upgraded the forum to the ministerial level last year.
Rawat said India and the US could soon finalise the Basic Exchange and Cooperation Agreement (BECA) for sharing geospatial intelligence. He said India was seeking collaboration with the US to acquire high-end technologies in areas such as aerospace, space and artificial intelligence.
He added there was tremendous scope for investments in India with the foreign direct investment limit raised to 74 percent.
Russia reiterates it won’t supply arms to Pakistan
MOSCOW, Sept 3: Russia on Thursday reiterated that it would not supply weapons to Pakistan during a meeting between defence minister Rajnath Singh and his Russian counterpart General Sergei Shoigu in Moscow, people familiar with the developments said.
The Russian commitment on no arms supply to Pakistan followed an Indian request, they said.
“The defence minister got Russia’s assurance that it stands by India’s security interest,” they said. Russia also strongly supported the Make in India initiative aimed at self-reliance in the defence sector during the one-hour meeting that covered a broad range of areas of bilateral cooperation.
“It was noted that this meeting coincides with the Indra naval exercises to be conducted by the Indian and Russian navies off the Strait of Malacca over the next two days,” the defence ministry said in a statement.
Singh said the drills demonstrated the common interests of both countries in maritime security in the Indian Ocean Region.
“There was substantial commonality in positions with respect to challenges at the regional and international levels in the areas of peace and security, reflective of the deep trust and confidence that both sides enjoy as strategic partners,” the statement said.
Singh conveyed India’s appreciation for the steadfast support provided by Russia to address the country’s defence and security needs, it said.
General Shoigu reiterated Russia’s commitment to engage actively with India on the Make in India programme, including substantial participation in the forthcoming Aero India-2021. The show will be staged at the Yelahanka air base outside Bengaluru from February 3 to 7 with all the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the Covid-19