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

July 16 - 31, 2017

Defence

Chief of Air Staff Visits France

Air Chief Marshal Birender Singh Dhanoa, Chief of the Air Staff (CAS) visited France from 17-20 Jul 17. The visit was intended to further strengthen the existing defence cooperation between the Air Forces of the two countries. During his stay, the CAS held bilateral discussions with senior military officials of the French Armed Forces. The CAS also visited the Headquarters of French Air Force and some operational Air Bases. The CAS visited the Indian Rafale facility and flew a sortie in the Rafale.

India has had very good relations with France, which has been a major supplier of defence platforms to India. One of the Indian Air Force’s (IAF) frontline aircraft, the Mirage 2000 and the Navy’s Scorpene submarines have been acquired from France. India also signed a deal worth €7.87 billion (approx Rs 59,000 crore) with French aviation major Dassault for supply of 36 Rafale fighter jets for the IAF in September last year. France remains one of the contenders for the future multi-role combat aircraft intended to be procured for the IAF. The CAS’ visit is important for nurturing this relationship, not only between the two Air Forces but also between the two countries. France has shown increasing interest in the affairs of the Indian Ocean Region (IOR) and has viewed Chinese activity in the region with some concern. It is therefore important that India should strengthen its relationship with France in various domains, not the least being the military. Such strategic alignment can benefit India, both on the military front as also dissuade any inimical interests in the region.

India – Russia Deal for Mi 17 Helicopters

Negotiations are underway, between Russia and India, for the supply of 48 Mi-17 military transport helicopters with Moscow hoping to seal the defence deal by the year end. Russian arms supplier Rosoboronexport's CEO Alexander Mikheev said India has more than 300 helicopters belonging to the Mi-8 and Mi-17 family, which are deployed in troop and arms transport, fire support, convoy escort, patrol, and search-and-rescue (SAR) missions."We hope that we will reach an agreement before the end of this year," he said.
The Mi 8/17 family of helicopters are the work horses of the IAF which have been deployed in various missions in the past ranging from being gunships during the Kargil conflict ion 1999 to evacuating people from natural disasters like the floods in Uttarakhand in 2013. The latest version of the helicopter, the Mi 17V5, is considered one of the best military transport helicopters in the world. The current contract being negotiated will add further teeth to the lift capability of the IAF, especially in the context of the Indian Army upgrading its capabilities for mountain warfare. The deal will also cement India- Russia ties, which in some quarters is viewed as weakening, considering India’s strengthening relations with the US. Russia remains a reliable and tested strategic partner with defence relations being a major pillar in this partnership.

Chief of Naval Staff Visits Mozambique and Tanzania

Admiral Sunil Lanba, Chairman Chiefs of Staff Committee (COSC) and Chief of the Naval Staff (CNS), visited Mozambique and Tanzania from 23 to 30 July 2017. The visit was intended to consolidate bilateral defence relations with the two countries as also to explore new avenues for defence cooperation. In Mozambique, Admiral Lanba held discussions with the Mozambican Minister of National Defence, the Chief of General Staff and the Commanders of the three services. In Tanzania, he held bilateral discussions with the President of Tanzania, the Ministers of Defence & National Service and Foreign Affairs, the Chief of Defence Forces, as also the three Tanzanian People's Defence Forces (TPDF) Service Chiefs.

The Indian Armed Forces cooperate with Armed Forces of Mozambique and Tanzanian on many fronts, which include training, Hydrography, participation in each other’s Defence events etc through Joint Defence Working Group (JDWG) with Mozambique and exchange of high-level visits with Tanzania. Mozambique and Tanzania are also members of the Indian Ocean Naval Symposium (IONS) and important countries in the IOR littoral. The East African littoral has been a major focus of a number of India’s regional initiatives. Building strong relations with these countries underpins the Prime Minister’s vision of SAGAR and is an important constituent for building a regional framework of ensuring peace and stability in the IOR. Visits of the Service Chiefs to these countries are critical to consolidating these relationships since many of these countries look up to India as a bulwark of security in the region.

Field trials of Ultra-Light Howitzers M-777 guns underway at Pokharan

The Indian Army began trials of the Ultra-light Howitzer (ULH) M-777 guns in Pokhran Range of Rajasthan's Jaisalmer district from July 16, 2017. The test-firing of the guns is primarily aimed at collating and determining various critical data like trajectory, speed, and frequency of fire of the M-777 A-2 ULH. The trials will continue till September for the formation of the "firing table" which is a major aspect of the overall induction process. Two of these artillery pieces were procured from the United States and brought to New Delhi on board a special aircraft in May 2017. An artillery unit conducted the test firing in the presence of a team of American members and its creator BAE Systems' engineers. The Centre under its Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program sealed the deal with the U.S. government on November 17, 2016, for 145 guns and is worth Rs 4,700 crore. The 155 mm, 39-calibre guns will use Indian ammunition. Three more guns will be supplied to the Army in September 2018 for training. Thereafter, induction will commence from March 2019 onwards with five guns per month till the complete consignment is received by mid-2021. Under the agreement 25 guns will come in a flyaway condition, the rest will be assembled in India by the BAE Systems in partnership with Mahindra Defence. In the move to strengthen the combat readiness of the Indian Army the Government of India is keen to streamline and speed up the modernization program in a timely manner.

International Terrorism

India Urges BRICS Nations to Cooperate against Terrorism

On July 27, 2017, the National Security Advisor (NSA) of India Ajit Doval addressed the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) NSAs in Beijing and appealed the grouping to play leadership role in combating global terrorism. Doval stressed the need for BRICS nations to take initiative on strategic issues of regional and global importance on which the grouping has consensus. He highlighted the fact that BRICS grouping has grown in global significance over the years and suggested that the BRICS meeting of NSAs should be a platform to discuss security issues that impact global peace and stability.

Anti-Daesh Operation in Mosul and Raqqa

Mosul

After a decisive victory at Mosul, the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) continued anti-Daesh operations in Iraq. On July 31, Iraqi warplanes killed 20 Islamic State terrorists at Tal Sufouq, a region bordering with Syria. The same day ISF launched a US controlled drone and killed 12 Daesh militants near the group’s last stronghold west of Nineveh. In a statement ISF confirmed that Islamic State’s (IS) commando chief, Abdul-Aziz Abdul-Qader al-Jeheishi was killed in these operations.

In the course of the prolonged anti-Daesh operations, over 40,000 civilians were killed and nearly one million people were forced to leave their homes in Mosul. Coinciding with the campaign in Mosul, paramilitary troops, backed by warplanes, managed to take full control over the borderline with Syria and Jordan. The US assisted ISF continues to fly drones above the town of Tal Afar to collect intelligence about Daesh locations and movements. The militants still managed to gain control over few locations in Nineveh close to the Syrian borders, most notably Tal Afar, where ISF has geared up to launch a massive military operation to liberate the city of Tal Afar. Though the IS had issued a statement on July 11 at Tal Afar confirming the death of its supreme leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, Pentagon officials are not yet willing to confirm the death. It may be recalled that Russia had confirmed Baghdadi’s death in an air strike in June 2017, but that was met with skepticism from the United States and other countries.

After the liberation of Mosul, the European Union on July 17 declared that it will send a security delegation to Iraq as a part of its Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP). Under this, the mission will focus on assisting the Iraqi authorities in the implementation of the civilian aspects of the Iraqi security strategy. The statement issued by the European Union (EU) Council states that the delegation of EU experts will provide advice and assistance in priority work areas responding to the needs of the relevant authorities. The move came in response to a request from Iraqi authorities to assist in civilian security reform.

India has also extended support to the people and Government of Iraq. During the recent visit of Foreign Minister of Iraq, Dr. Ibrahim al-Jaafari, India conveyed its commitment to a stable, peaceful, united and democratic Iraq. The Iraqi Foreign Minister thanked Indian Foreign Minister for her letter of congratulations and for the visit of Minister of State Gen VK Singh as the first senior foreign dignitary to visit Iraq after the liberation of Mosul. Iraqi Foreign Minister invited Indian companies to participate in the reconstruction and rebuilding of Iraq, which India welcomed.

Raqqa

The U.S-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) are on the verge of seizing full control of the southern neighborhoods of IS-held Raqqa. The SDF is making "consistent gains" every day. On July 18, 2017, SDF captured the south-western suburb of Yarmouk. In view of the stiff resistance offered by Daesh, it is early to determine when the SDF will take complete control of the city of Raqqa. Unlike Mosul, Daesh is still using in Raqqa car bombs, booby traps, and civilians to hide behind. Intense fighting is ongoing between the SDF and Daesh in the southern countryside of Raqqa where Daesh is attempting to break the pocket west of Maadan. If this pocket is cleared of Daesh units, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and its allies will be able to advance on the town of Maadan itself.

Along with Raqqa, the Syrian Government Forces backed by Russia, launched an attack on the city of Sukhna on July 31, 2017. Under intense airstrikes by Russia and artillery shelling, significant progress is being made in the operation. Till now the Syrian army, backed by foreign militias managed to recapture several security headquarters belonging to the Islamic state in the city of Sukhna after violent clashes.The Syrian fighter aircrafts bombarded the Daesh headquarters and killed several militants.

In the fierce gun battle, the United Nations (UN) succeeded to open new land routes in Syria to expedite food deliveries to areas around the northern city of Raqqa. This has enabled World Food Program to deliver food to rural areas north of the city for the first time since last three years. The UN Refugee agency estimated that since April 01, 2017 more than 190,000 people have been displaced from and within Raqqa province. In the past 48 hours, hundreds of civilians managed to flee areas under IS control and cross to territory seized the SDF.

Africa

Boko Haram attacks Oil Exploration Sites

On July 26, 2017, nearly 40 people were killed in North-East Nigeria when Boko Haram militants attacked an armed convoy of specialists from the Nigerian National Petroleum Cooperation (NNPC). In this attack, soldiers, Civilian Task Force and Nigerian soldiers lost their lives. Boko Haram kidnapped four oil workers, one of whom subsequently died. In response, the minister of state for petroleum resources, Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, announced government decision to stop oil exploration in the Lake Chad basin until the security situation improved.

In Nigeria, oil exploration and production is handled through partnerships between the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation and private firms. Boko Haram considers Nigeria’s secular state and its associates to be anti-Islamic. Hence, oil production is a natural target of Boko Haram. The revenue from oil alone contributes 70 per cent of the Nigerian economy and 90 per cent of its foreign exchange earnings. With production hit by the attacks, there has been a shift in focus to explore inland basins, including around Lake Chad in the northeast, where Nigeria meets Cameroon , Chad, and Niger. Work is centered on a triangle of hotly contested land stretching from Gubbio in the west of Borno to Marte in the east, and Kukawa, in the far northeast corner near the shores of the lake. Analysts suggest that the militants who left Daesh territory from Syria and Iraq have been conducting suicide attacks against security forces and civilian militia in Maiduguri district have added complexity to the security situation in Nigeria.

Pakistan & Afghanistan

Suicide Attack Killed 26 in Lahore

In a suicide attack, at least 26 people were killed and more than 50 others wounded on July 24, 2017 in Lahore which was claimed by Pakistani Taliban. Local officials said the attack likely targeted the city’s police, who were attempting to clear illegal street vendors from a crowded main road. The city of Lahore has been the target of a spate of terrorist attacks. In February 2017, nearly 12 people were killed at a protest rally where a member of Taliban detonated a suicide bomb. Similarly, in April 2017, six people were killed in a similar suicide attack targeting census workers in Lahore. Lahore had also witnessed one of the deadliest attacks in Pakistan’s history when an explosion at a public park in 2016 killed more than 70 people, many of whom were children.
In addition to the Pakistani Taliban, the loosely-affiliated Afghan Taliban continues to ramp up its attacks in neighboring Afghanistan, where civilian deaths have reached a
record high. According to the UN, the Taliban contributed to 43 percent of civilian casualties caused by anti-government forces in Afghanistan in 2017. On July 24, morning, the Taliban claimed to have set off a car bomb in Kabul, killing at least 29 people and wounding at least 40 people.

Internal Terrorism

Jammu and Kashmir

Hizbul Mujahideen Module Busted in Baramulla

In an intelligence driven operation, jointly carried out by the security forces, a module of Hizbul Mujahideen (HM) was busted with the arrest of three militants in Baramulla district on July 16, 2017. During this operation arms, ammunition and cash of Rs 1,00,000/- was recovered from the militants. A case under section 13 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act has been registered in Police Station Pattan.

In a statement issued by the Jammu & Kashmir (J&K) Police, it was claimed that the HM module was active in Baramulla in luring the youth towards terrorism and providing logistic support to cause unrest in the valley. The Module was spearheaded by trained Hizbul terrorist Parvez Wani alias Mubashir from Gagloora Handwara of Kupwara district of Kashmir. The police statement added that preliminary investigation indicated that the module had plans to send selected youth from valley to Pakistan on valid visas to get them trained in terror camps in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir to revive unrest in the valley. One Abdul Rashid Bhat who was arrested in a similar operation in May 2017 also confirmed to have obtained training in Khalid bin Waleed camp of HM located in the Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK). He went to Pakistan on a valid visa issued by the Embassy of Pakistan, New Delhi. The statement further informed that in June 2017, Baramulla Police had retrieved around 10 boys who were meant to be inducted into terrorist ranks and handed them over to their parents.

In similar operation on July 16, 2017, J&K Police arrested four people including a policeman and a bank official for their alleged involvement in providing logistic support to and participation in the killing of Special Police Officer (SPO) Khurshid Ahmad in Imamsahib Shopian in June 2017. While investigating the SPOs murder case the J&K Police confirmed that the attack was conducted by the HM module based at Shopian. Police further claimed that in the criminal conspiracy, four OGWs (Over Ground Workers) provided logistic support to the militant group who were identified as Amir Mohidin - a bank official, Constable Towseef Ahmad of Chakoora, Basharat Yusuf Mir a private teacher and Iftikhar Rather alias Jamshed.

Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) Module Busted in Srinagar

In a well-coordinated intelligence based operation,J&K Police arrested six OGWs in Tengpora area of Srinagar on July 23, 2017. These people were arrested with an AK-47 and other ballistic material. The arrested OGWs were identified as Mastan Sirul Saba of Loogra Pulwama, Ishfaq Ahmad Dar of Kakpura, Pulwama, Arif Ahmad Dar of Loogra, Pulwama, Masrat Ahmad Dar of Loogra Pulwama and Nisar Ahmad Lone of Ratanpura Pulwama. Police termed their arrest as a major success as the members were scheduled to meet their counterparts in North Kashmir. After the operation, security forces conducted searches in Shalteng area of Srinagar. However, due to intense stone pelting by residents, the search operation was called off.

NIA Arrests Seven Separatist leaders in Money Laundering/Terror Financing Case

The National Investigation Agency (NIA), in a major crackdown against terror financing in Kashmir, arrested seven Hurriyat leaders from Srinagar on July 24, 2017. Those arrested included Altaf Ahmad Shah, Sahid-ul-Islam, Zahoor Watali, Mehrajudding Kalwal, Nayeem Khan and Farooq Ahmed Dar alias ‘Bitta Karate’. NIA teams conducted raids on the houses of these accused. Investigation so far have confirmed the role of Altaf Shah as an influential force in the Tehrek-e-Hurriyat. During the raids, the NIA recovered account books, Rs one crore in cash, and letterheads of banned terrorist organisations like the LeT. Preliminary investigations also suggest that the separatist's groups were receiving funds from Pakistan for subversive activities in the valley. Based on this information NIA conducted raids on the houses of Hurriyat leaders and lawyers and hawala agents based in New Delhi and Noida. The NIA seeks to identify the chain of players behind the financing of terrorist activities, including those who masterminded the throwing of stones at security forces, burnt down schools and damaged government establishments.

On July 30, 2017, NIA raided residence and office of Devender Singh Behal, a lawyer linked to Hurriyat Conference chairman Syed Ali Shah Geelani in Jammu. NIA detained him for questioning after recovery of several incriminating documents in connection with terror funding. During raids at the house of Behal, the NIA teams seized four mobile telephones, a tablet computer, and few other articles and sent it for further forensic inspection.

Presence of Al Qaeda in Jammu and Kashmir being Investigated

Director General of Police, Jammu Kashmir Police, S P Vaid confirmed on July 28, 2017, that Police was investigating reports of Al Qaeda (AQ) having formed a new cell in the state. This follows announcement by AQ on July 27, 2017that former HM commander Zakir Musa would head the Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind, an outfit of AQ in Kashmir valley. Global Islamic Media Front, the online propaganda arm of AQ has also mentioned Musa’s name. Security experts suggest that after United Jehad Council took exception to Musa’s statement threatening to “behead separatist leaders, especially those who describe Kashmir as a mere political issue” and not a religious war for an Islamic state, Musa resigned from HM.

IS Operative Convicted by NIA Court

The NIA Court on July 27, 2017 pronounced judgment in the NIA case RC01/2017/NIA/DLI (ISIS Kullu case) convicting the accused Abid Khan @ Abu Mohammad @ Paul Neo under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act of the Indian Penal Code and the Explosive Substances Act, and sentenced him to undergo rigorous imprisonment for five years and to pay a fine of Rs. 5000/-. The court also imposed fine of Rs 5000/- on co-accused Abid Khan alias Abu Mohammad Khan. According to the prosecution, the accused confessed that he was working with a sleeper cell of the IS and also gave crucial information.

Left Wing Extremism

425 CPI(M) Cadres Surrendered in 2017- the MHA Asks State Police to be more Vigilant

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on July 24, 2017, issued directives to the Central Armed Police Forces and Security establishments and State Police directorates to remain more vigilant and assertive while dealing with Left Wing Extremists. The ministry also asked the Security Force (SFs) to adhere to the multi-prong approach of initiating development works in the Naxal-affected areas and facilitating surrender of the Naxals. According to the MHA statistics, 424 Communist Party of India – Maoists (CPI-M) cadres have so far surrendered in 2017. Out of these, 298 in Chattisgarh, 38 in Jharkhand, 27 in Odisha, 35 in Andhra Pradesh, 11 West Bengal 11, 2 each in Telangana and Bihar, and 7 in Maharashtra surrendered in the year.

In Bihar, in an intelligence driven joint operation of Central Reserve Police Force and Bihar Police in Aurangabad district on July 30, 2017, three cadres of the CPI-M, were arrested. Prior to arrests, the insurgents pasted posters in different areas of Aurangabad district to terrorize people to observe ‘Bandh’ on August 03, 2017. These cadres were also trying to influence and motivate local youths to join CPI-Maoist cadres. On July 29, 2017, Bihar Police arrested a CPI-M cadre from Thathan village of Vaishali District. The arrested CPI-M cadre, identified as Naulakh Singh, was involved in several Maoists activities in Muzaffarpur and Vaishali district.