Fortnightly Review & Analysis: Defence, National Security and Terrorism (Vol 2 Issue II)

January 16 - 31, 2017


Indian Army Celebrates 69th Army Day

Indian Army celebrated its 69th Army Day on 15 Jan 2017. Every year, the Indian Army celebrates 15th January as ‘Army Day’ to commemorate the day when General (later Field Marshal) K.M Carriappa took over the command of Army from General Sir F.R.R Bucher, the last British Commander-in-Chief in 1949 and became the first Commander-in-Chief of Indian Army post Independence.

To commemorate the event, an Army Day Parade was held and the same was reviewed by General Bipin Rawat, Chief of the Army Staff. In his address on the occasion, the Chief brought out that while India sought peace on the Line of Control, Cease Fire Violations or untoward incidents propagated by Pakistan would be responded to by force. He also brought out that Confidence Building Measures were being further strengthened along the Line of Actual Control with China to reduce tensions. The COAS also highlighted the contribution of Indian Army in UN Peace Keeping Missions, modernization projects in the pipeline and welfare schemes being instituted for serving soldiers, ex servicemen and ‘veer naris’.

Besides keeping the nation secure, the Indian Army has acquitted itself extremely creditably in internal security and counter-insurgency operations and has extended invaluable aid to civil authorities in disaster management and maintenance of law and order. This Army day was an occasion on which it rededicated itself to the nation.

IAF And Royal Air Force of Oman Hold Joint Exercise

The Indian Air Force (IAF) and Royal Air Force of Oman (RAFO) undertook a joint five-day exercise in India in the last fortnight. This exercise was the fourth bilateral air exercise named "Ex Eastern Bridge-IV" which has been held between the two countries.

In this exercise, both the air forces participated in joint air defence and offensive counter air missions by increasing the difficulty levels to large force engagements. Undertaking of this joint exercise has helped to consolidate military ties between India and Oman as also provide requisite exposure to respective the participants.

As a part of India’s role as a responsible player in the Asia Pacific region it has been regularly engaging in cooperation with foreign defence forces so as to enhance mutual trust and confidence. The said joint exercise is another step in this direction.

Pakistan Tests Long-Range Surface-To-Surface Ballistic Missile

Last fortnight, Pakistan conducted the first successful flight test of its surface-to-surface ballistic missile which has a maximum range of 2200 kilometers. The missile named "Ababeel" is capable of delivering multiple warheads, using Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicle (MIRV) technology. The said missile is also said to be capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

Pakistan authorities have claimed that the missile has been developed with the aimed of ensuring survivability of Pakistan's ballistic missiles in the growing regional Ballistic Missile Defense environment and further reinforcing the country’s existing deterrence.

The testing of this missile has to be seen along with the earlier successful test firing of the "Babur-3" missile which is a submarine launched cruise missile with a range of 450 kilometers. It is thus evident that Pakistan’s deterrence has got a boost and the same has to be made note of.

Change in PLA Leadership

The People’s Liberation Army (Navy) saw a major reshuffling of its top brass, in addition to the change of the Commander of the PLAN, in the past week or so. While definite dates are not available for the changes, the new incumbents are said to have taken over their new appointments, according to the Chinese military website. Vice Admiral Wang Hai, former deputy navy commander took over as the commander of the South Sea Fleet replacing Vice Admiral Shen Jinlong, who was promoted commander of the PLA Navy. Vice Admiral Yuan Yubai, former commander of the North Sea Fleet, was promoted as commander of the Southern Theater Command and he was succeeded by Rear Admiral Zhang Wendan, former deputy chief of staff of the Southern Theater Command. Vice Admiral Su Zhiqian, former commander of the East Sea Fleet, was promoted as deputy commander of the PLA Navy and his former position was filled by Wei Gang, former deputy commander and chief of staff of the Southern Theater Command.

This is the first time that a naval officer, Vice Admiral Yuan Yubai, has been appointed as a theatre commander after the restructuring of the PLA last year. The Southern Theatre Command’s Area of responsibility (AOR) covers the contentious South China Sea and the appointment of a naval officer as its theatre commander could indicate the increased importance of this area, especially in the light of the statements from the Trump White House. While China has cautioned the White House against making these provocative statements and noting that the United States ‘is not a party to the dispute’, it will continue consolidating its military position on the contested features to ‘exert indisputable (its) sovereignty’. The current crop of assignments, along with the modernization of its Navy, so clearly demonstrated by the operation of its carrier group, show the importance that China attaches to this region. China seems to be well on the path to successfully carry out ‘offshore defence with protection of overseas interests’.


Mosul Campaign in Iraq

The military campaign for the liberation of Mosul in Iraq made significant progress in the latter half of January with the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) and its coalition partners capturing important areas in the eastern neighborhood of Mosul and eventually pushing the Daesh forces out of eastern Mosul. With this military breakthrough, the ISF will now be in a position to intensify operation in the western Mosul. The focus at the moment, however, is to chase out Daesh from historic places such as Diyala and Anbar where there is considerable support for the outfit. According to a report, “The recent gain in momentum follows increased Coalition and ISF efforts to reinforce and synchronize ground efforts across the city and block ISIS’s cross-city mobility”. The outgoing US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter also said, “As they now prepare to clear the western part of Mosul, I'm confident that ISIL's days in Mosul are numbered”.

However, Daesh fighters prepare for the operations in the western neighborhood of Mosul. In all likelihood, Daesh will make use of the densely populated areas in western Mosul and this might limit the security force’s call for “air support or heavy artillery”. In the presence of a large civilian population, it is going to be a major challenge for the ISF to evacuate them should there be heavy clashes with the Daesh fighters. The overall politico-security situation in Iraq will continue to remain grim, and a complete military defeat of Daesh is expected to take some time. Besides, Daesh fighters are expected to continue to mount diversionary strike and bomb blasts, whenever and wherever favorable opportunities come their way, as was noticed in the recent bomb blast in Baghdad.

Airstrikes against Daesh in Libya

Daesh fighters inside Libya continued to be subjected to US led airstrikes on January 18 and 19. The bombing is reportedly linked to the Berlin terror incident of December 19, 2016. The assault also came as a reminder of similar air campaigns conducted in the previous year that led to the eviction of significant number of Daesh fighters from the city of Sirte. According to intelligence reports, some of the terrorists involved in the Christmas market carnage were believed to have been plotting further operations in Europe and were connected with other attacks in the continent. The recent air assault suggests that the threat from Daesh in Libya has not disappeared completely. Although their capability to capture territories or plan brazen attacks in the country has gone down, there is no clarity where the fighters, who once resided inside Sirte, have fled to. Considering the situation in Libya, the previous US administration under President Barack Obama, had vowed to give military support in the fight against terrorism.

India-UAE Counterterrorism Cooperation

India has started giving immense importance to strengthening military-security-related cooperation with countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), apart from Israel. Apart from the well-known activities of Pak-based terror groups in countries like UAE, the emergence of Daesh in West Asia, its growing influence in India and the spread of radicalization, are some of the additional factors contributing to the recent efforts to establish robust cooperation in this field.

In this context, during the just concluded visit to India, of Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who was also a Chief Guest during the 26 January Republic Day celebrations, and the Indian Prime Minister, in their joint statement acknowledged “the common threat posed by terrorism to peace and security”. Both the leaders also “reiterated their strong condemnation of and resolute opposition to terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, wherever committed and by whomever, and declared that there could be no justification for terrorism anywhere”. Most importantly, the statement “condemned efforts, including by States, to use religion to justify, sustain and sponsor terrorism against other countries”.

This was considered as a strong ‘message’ to Pakistan, which is one of the UAE’s strongest partners from South Asia. It should be recollected that during Modi’s earlier visit to the UAE in August 2015, he mentioned his desire “to see the UAE as the foremost partner in trade and countering terrorism”. This tiny Persian Gulf country views radical extremism and terrorism with utmost concerns and it is not at ease with the rising activities of Daesh in its backyards. In the immediate aftermath to that visit of PM Modi in September 2015 one saw the deportation of Indian youths connected with Daesh, and the arrest of Afsha Jabeen for her alleged role in radicalizing and recruiting activists for the outfit. Both countries have now agreed to intensify cooperation in defense and space as well. These are clear indications that the ties between India and the UAE are no longer restricted to oil-energy and commercial relations but is deepening in security areas.

69 Pakistanis Arrested in Saudi Arabia on Charges of Terrorism

On January 23, 2017, the Saudi authorities confirmed that since July 2016 nearly 69 Pakistani people have been arrested for their involvement in terror activities in Saudi Arabia. This initiative was launched by the Interior Ministry of Saudi Arabia after the bombings in July 2016. The Saudi Interior Ministry also confirmed that it had foiled two terror plots in Jeddah during October 2016. During this operation the authorities recovered a car loaded with explosives near Al Jawahara Football Stadium. Two Pakistani nationals, namely Solaiman Arab Deen and Farman Naqshband Khan were arrested. Recent statement issued by the Interior Ministry through its Tawasul (communications) portal said that 5,085 terror suspects from 40 countries are in detention in five intelligence prisons in the Kingdom. The statement said that 4,254 Saudis detained in intelligence prisons constitute the largest number of suspects, followed by 282 Yemenis and 218 Syrians. There are three suspects from the US and one each from France, Belgium and Canada.


Abu Musaib killed in J&K

A top Lashkar-e-Toiba militant, Abu Musaib, nephew of LeT leader Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, was killed in an encounter with the security forces on January 19, 2017 at Hajin, Bandipora district of north Kashmir. The operation was jointly conducted by 13 Rashtriya Rifles and J&K Police and CRPF. Abu Musaib was divisional commander, active in Bandipora and Ganderbal districts since August 2015. He was wanted in many terror cases including a suicide attack on a CRPF camp on August 15, in downtown Srinagar last year. In the operation, one AK-56 rifle, three magazines, 66 rounds, a radio set and three grenades were seized from the encounter site.

NIA Arrests alleged ISIS Operative from Hyderabad

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested Mohammed Irfan, an alleged aide of Daesh from Hyderabad on January 17, 2017. His name had come up during investigation following NIA busting a Daesh conspiracy module during search conducted in Hyderabad on June 29, 2016. The investigation has revealed that Irfan along with the other accused took part in creating hideouts, physical training etc. NIA has registered a case of criminal conspiracy against some youth of Hyderabad and their accomplices to wage war against the government of India by collecting weapons and explosive materials to target public places including religious sites, sensitive government building, etc., in various parts of the country. A charge sheet has also been filed by the probe agency in the case.

ISI Suspects Arrested

Three suspected ISI agents were arrested by Anti Terror Squad (ATS) of Bihar police on January 18th. The three arrestees were questioned by the NIA along with central intelligence agencies in connection with the November 20, 2016 Indore-Patna train mishap at Kanpur that claimed 150 lives. The NIA confirmed that the trio had provided significant information during investigation. The three were extensively quizzed to ascertain ISI’s role in triggering train mishaps in India. Investigation revealed that the three accused were paid rupees three lakh by a Nepali man Brajesh Giri, who allegedly had connections with Shamsul Hoda of Dubai (linked with the ISI). The money was paid to plant bomb on the railway track at Ghorasan in East Champaran district, bordering Nepal, on October 1, 2016.

Dubai Based Indian Funded Three Girls to Join Daesh

The NIA has revealed that three girls from Philippines and Tunisia have allegedly joined the Daesh. The agency also confirmed that the money was given to these three girls by Dubai based Indian Daesh sympathiser Mohammed Farhan Shaikh at behest of a Pakistani national. The NIA also claimed that Shaikh was arrested in 2016 along with two others and was deported from UAE for alleged Daesh links.

Manipur Government to Discharge Constitutional Responsibilities

Union Home Minister has asked Manipur government to maintain public order in the state including the maintenance of essential supplies and a conducive atmosphere for holding elections in March. This was conveyed to Manipur Chief Minister Ibobi Singh during his visit to Delhi on January 18, 2017. On the same day, Home Minister Rajnath Singh also held meeting with Chief Minister of Nagaland T R Zeliang and sought his cooperation to keep National Highway 2 open between Dimapur and Mao gate. The blockade is hampering the democratic process including the movement of people and the election officials. The Central government has assured the state government that it was ready to send more forces in the state if required.

So far, 40 additional companies of central paramilitary forces have been made available to Manipur in the month of December, 2016, in addition to 135 companies of CAPFs already stationed there. Despite these the economic blockade in the area continues, causing hardship to the people.